Pet Grief: Losing your non-human family

Within the last few weeks several of my friends have lost their beloved animal best friends. Each loss reminds me of the pain I felt when I’ve lost pets. For many of us, our pets are better friends than our relatives, and losing them after years of their eager unconditional love can truly be a most painful experience.

Nearly every client I’ve sat across from has talked about the pain of losing a loved pet. Most of those clients also tell me about the comments they receive from their friends and family who aren’t pet people: It’s just an animal. For those that experience the great joy of pet ownership and devastation of pet loss, the feelings are very real.

People often apologize in the midst of their pet loss grief and try to explain it to me in session. They don’t believe that others fully understand because of the reactions they’ve had in past or that they’ve seen others experience. Why should someone be sorry that they’re sad at the loss of a member of their family? Death of a family member is painful, whether that family member is human, horse, dog, cat, or any other animal. Expressing that pain is healthy, normal, and expected.

Coping with the grief from losing your loved pet can feel confusing and lonely. Try these tips for helping yourself out:

  • Accept the grief and give yourself permission to express it
  • Talk with supportive friends who are pet people
  • Write about your loss
  • Create a memory book where you and family members write down the funny stories you remember about your pet
  • Contact local veterinary clinics to find out about pet loss support groups in your area
  • Volunteer at your local Humane Society or other animal shelter
  • Give yourself time to grieve before adopting another pet
  • Donate your pet’s toys or items to a local pet charity if the idea that they may bring another pet happiness is soothing
  • Frame a picture of your pet to keep to help you remember their presence in your family – just as you would with a human relative who passed away

Remember that grief has no timeline or boundaries. Each person will grieve differently for their pet. Seek support from friends or a professional when you need it.

Blessings of Healing,

Whitney

 

*If you’re looking for a counselor to help you sort out feelings of grief after the loss of your pet and you’re in Texas, visit my contact page for online and in person services options.

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