No one wants to think about a pet dying, but when that time comes, there are many options available. Many owners choose cremation, and there are cemeteries specifically for pets. In some communities, pets can even be buried on your property. Your local funeral director can help determine the best option and answer any questions about what is permissible or available in your area. He or she will also be able to tell you more about special urns and other commemorative items that can help memorialize your pet’s life.
Dealing with the loss of a pet can be difficult. There is a special bond that forms between a pet and its owner, one of unconditional love and pure friendship. And when that pet is gone, there is a void. A pet is not only a friend or companion but a part of the family, and when a pet dies, it is very much like losing a member of the family.
Grieving Your LossIt is important to remember that it’s okay to feel sad – to grieve – because for most people, losing a pet is a profound loss. It’s okay to cry or feel angry. These powerful and complex emotions are part of the grieving process, something we all do in our own way.
There is no right or wrong way to mourn, but there are some common symptoms of grief, both physical and emotional. You may have difficulty eating or sleeping, have trouble concentrating or experience headaches or an upset stomach. You may feel especially sad or lonely, perhaps guilty that you didn’t do more for your pet. These are all normal responses that may occur after a beloved pet dies.
Grief is a deep wound, but eventually, it heals. The kind of sadness that occurs after the death of a pet doesn’t ever entirely go away, but it does become gentler as you accept the loss. Your cherished memories of time spent together will remain with you always as a source of comfort.
Your pet was not “just a dog” or “just a cat.” Don’t ever feel that your loss is diminished because it was an animal. That animal was a member of your family. Your pet has been with you through good times and bad times and is a central point of many memories, so your loss is significant. You’re justified in your feelings and should never feel as if your grief should be less than it is.
Helping Children HealChildren and their pets have a unique bond as well. Many times, children feel a sense of guilt over the loss of their pet and feel like they could have done something to prevent the death of their friend. Younger children might not comprehend the full meaning of death. It is especially important to be supportive during this difficult time. To help them heal, you may want to have your children help you plan a service, plant a memorial garden or express their feelings through art projects. It is recommended that children have adequate time to mourn before getting a new companion. They need time to accept the loss of their friend.
Remembering Your PetTaking the time to remember your pet and pay tribute to his or her life and the memories you made together is an important step in the grieving process. Holding a memorial service for your pet can help. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate event, but gathering family and friends to share stories, look at pictures and reflect together is a great way to honor your pet’s life, and it’s especially helpful if you have young children who are struggling with the loss. This gives them a chance to speak about what they’re feeling and to understand that grief is natural.
Remember, whether it’s at a formal memorial service or in casual conversation with family and friends, talking about your pet helps you heal. No one can ever replace your pet, though as time passes, you may decide to bring another companion into your family. These are all normal phases in the grief and healing process.
There is never an easy way to say goodbye, but when the time comes, remember that you are not alone. Your family and friends will help you, and together you can celebrate the wonderful contributions your pet made in your life.