During the last seven years of my career as an RN in hospice care, I repeatedly witnessed the processes of families experiencing the loss and grief when a loved one passed. And for many pet owners, the loss of their precious pet can be comparable, in almost every way, to the loss of a human loved one.
In fact, conversations I have had with a number of pet owners said they grieved more over the loss of their pet than over the loss of friends or relatives. And research has confirmed this phenomenon. The grief might be compounded because the pet owner had to make the difficult choice for euthanasia to ease the suffering of a pet with a serious injury or an incurable medical condition. Unfortunately, there’s little in our cultural playbook – no grief rituals, no obituary in the local newspaper, no religious service – to help us get through the loss of a pet.
- Don’t be afraid to cry.
- Discussing your grief with friends and family members can be helpful.
- Take some time out to grieve for your pet.
- Consider joining a pet loss support group in your area or online.
- Speak with a grief counselor to help you work through your emotions.
- Celebrate the time you had with your pet.
- Do something from your heart that will help you remember your pet.
- Create a small memorial service with family or friends.
- Displaying one or more of the items (paw print, a lock of hair, dog collar or favorite small toy).
- In a window-box frame with a photo of your dog in a prominent in your home.
- Consider planting a tree or other plant in your yard with a decorative stepping stone that can be placed there with a message or the name of your pet.
- In the case of cremation, scatter the cremains near the tree.
- Remember that grief takes time, but things will get better.
- Focus on the happy memories with your pet.
- Future pets cannot replace your lost companion, but at the right time, they might help fill a void.
- Be grateful for the time you shared your life with your loving companions.