People love their pets and consider them members of their family:
Caregivers celebrate their pets’ birthdays, confide in their animals,
and carry pictures of them in their wallets. So when your beloved
pet dies, it’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed by the intensity
of your sorrow. But understanding how you grieve and finding ways
to cope with your loss can bring you closer to the day when memories
bring smiles instead of tears.
What is the grief process?
The grief process is as individual as the person, lasting days for
one person or years for another. The process typically begins with
denial, which offers protection until individuals can realize their
loss. Some caregivers may try bargaining with a higher power, themselves,
or even their pet to restore life. Some feel anger, which may be
directed at anyone involved with the pet, including family, friends,
and veterinarians. The caregivers may also feel guilt about what
they did or did not do, and may feel that it is inappropriate to
be so upset. After these feelings subside, the caregivers experience
true sadness or grief. In their depression, caregivers may withdraw.
Acceptance occurs when they accept the reality of their loss and
remember their animal companion with decreasing sadness. Remember,
not everyone follows these classic stages of grief-some may skip
or repeat a stage, or experience the stages in a different order.
How can I cope with my grief?
While grief is a personal experience, a caregiver need not face
this loss alone. Many forms of support are available, including
pet bereavement counseling services, pet-loss support hotlines,
local or Internet bereavement groups, books, videos, and magazine
articles. Here are a few suggestions to help you cope:
Acknowledge your grief and give yourself permission to express
hesitate to reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear.
about your feelings, either in a journal or a poem.
your local humane society to see whether it offers a pet-loss
support group or can refer you to one. You may also want to consider
calling a pet-loss hotline for support. Explore the Internet for
pet-loss support groups and coping information.