Losing a beloved pet can feel much like losing a member of your family. Whether the loss is sudden, due to illness or injury, or the result of a long life lived, grieving owners often feel like they've been cheated out of valuable time. It's important to recognize that your grief is a real and valid feeling, whether you're mourning the loss of a faithful hound or a gold fish you'd grown attached to. Grief is real, and it is in no way diminished by the fact that your loved one wasn't human. How long your grief will last is dependent upon the individual, but there are some healthy ways for coping with grief.
Ditch the Guilt
Regardless of the circumstances that led up to the loss of your pet, you may feel overcome with guilt. So many questions come to mind. Should I have done something sooner? Why didn't I lock the gate? Was euthanasia really the only choice? In your grief, it is common to try to accept at least some of the responsibility for the death of your pet. Guilt is something that most survivors feel at one point or another when they have experienced loss. Even if your actions may have inadvertently led to the loss, holding on to the guilt is harmful to your emotional well-being and will prolong the grieving process. Learn to let go of those guilty questions so healing can begin.
Remember the Good Times
How you choose to remember your pet is an individual decision. Some owners feel comforted when they look at old pictures and remember the circumstances involved with that day. Families often find comfort in sharing their favorite story about the lost pet, recounting things about their personality that was unique or funny. If you don't have anyone close to talk about your pet with, there are often support groups that can be found in the community or online. A support group will give you a chance to meet with people who are also grieving a lost pet and to share your sorrow with one another in a safe and comforting environment.
Honor Their Memory
As your grief fades a little, you may want to consider doing something to honor your pet's special memory. This can be anything from planting a memorial garden to donating their unused food and supplies to your local animal shelter. Many companies provide unique mementos from custom garden plaques to specialized urns that feature your loved one's photo. These tokens of commemoration can be as personalized as you want and often help remind you of the good times shared. If seeing the memento still brings you pain, put it out of sight until you are ready to see it on a regular basis.
Give Yourself Time
Remember that grief is not a one-size-fits-all situation. What other have experienced in regards to depth of sadness and duration is not necessarily what you should expect of yourself. We are all individuals and thus have our own methods of coping with grief. Some people are best comforted by getting another pet right away. Others cannot bear the thought of starting over so soon. No matter what decisions you make, be sure that they are the right ones for you. If you feel that your grief has been hanging around for too long or you are not getting better, consider calling a counselor for help. Pets are members of our family, and there should be no shame in grieving their loss.