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Coping with the Loss of a Pet

Next week is Human-Animal Relationship Appreciation Week. This holiday was created by the Institute of Animals and Society in November 2016 to bring awareness to the significance of the connection we have with our pets.

It's no secret that pets play an important role in our lives. When a beloved pet becomes part of your family, the loss of that pet can be devastating, causing profound sadness and anguish. The grieving process is a natural part of recognizing the reality of death, and mourning a loss is a way for pet owners to release their emotions and help regain composure and new perspectives. The mourning journey would not and should not follow a set pattern or progression and can involve choosing a memorial that symbolizes the love and happiness your furry family member provided. As natural a process as death is, it still takes time to adjust to your pet’s absence, just as it took time to build the relationship you shared with your pet.

one orange and one black cat paw on top of two human holed hands

Healing from a loss requires patience by being kind to yourself and not feeling overcome with guilt. Acknowledging your feelings after the loss of a pet is a painful step but is necessary to move forward. Taking time to work through your feelings rather than driving them away or dismissing them will result in a healthier mourning journey.

To help with the grieving process after losing a pet, you can take steps to assist in the road to emotional recovery. Animals allow us to establish healthy routines in our lives, and finding strategies to rebuild structure in your days can help you recover. As a pet owner, your friends and neighbors may recognize you as someone who always walked your beautiful dog around the neighbourhood. Keeping that walking routine could help you recover emotionally. Consider taking the same route still that you took with your dog and remember the fun you shared on your walks together. Perhaps you can ask a friend to join so you don't feel alone.

Finding a new source of meaning or purpose in your life can benefit your healing journey. Consider volunteering for an organization that you are passionate about and that drives you, such as volunteering for The Bello Project, or at a local animal rescue or shelter to help animals in need, or by volunteering to clean up hiking trails and areas.

To help when struggling with a loss and give a new sense of purpose and identity you can also consider giving another pet a loving home. Pets give endless friendship and devotion and provide structure and social interaction to our lives. While loss and aching will still be present, you don't have to wait until these feelings are gone before beginning to move on. Giving a pet in need a loving home can bring joy and healthy routines back into your life.

HHA's next virtual Pet Lovers Death Café is on Tuesday, November 15th @ 7:00PM. You can register to attend here.

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