The loss of a pet may feel, for some people, something to be embarrassed about being upset over. The truth is; the loss of a pet can be huge. Keeping in mind that people can have dogs and cats for fifteen to twenty years or so. Even a few years is a noticeable loss. It also feels like a lonely loss. You are the only one/s who loved them that much. Who knew them so well. Other people may sympathise initially, but they just don’t understand. They don’t get it. They may suggest getting another pet. Sometimes that does indeed help, but it has to be the right time for you. Another pet will not be the pet you lost, it will be a different little soul. You will be new to each other. It will not be the same as having your old pet. You may need time to mourn them, to grieve your loss and adjust, before wanting to jump in with a new companion, and all the responsibility and attention they deserve. Don’t allow others to rush you. The loss of a pet is a significant loss. It is meaningful. It deserves time to be acknowledged and processed.
Losing a pet can also tap into other losses. It can bring up past feelings of bereavement. Maybe the person had been focusing on their pet since suffering another kind of loss. It might have given them focus and motivation. It could have provided some much-needed purpose and structure to their days. In the television series ‘After Life’ by Ricky Gervais, his character, Tony, points out that his dog saved his life after the loss of his wife. Tony wanted to die too, but couldn’t leave the dog. Pets can be a reason to get out of bed and leave the house. Something else to consider is that the pet was a link to the person who died, and a last connection to them. It can seem strange when someone seemingly copes well with the death of a person, and then goes to pieces when a pet dies. But actually, the two are not unrelated. Cuddling with a pet reduces stress, relieves symptoms of depression, and speeds up healing times. Sometimes, it’s the only regular physical contact that somebody gets. Imagine losing all that along with your friend.
Sometimes the only farewell we get is walking out of the vet’s, or worst of all, the pet went missing. It can help to have a memorial service for yourself or your family at home, or at a place your pet loved. I’ve also known people to make donations of money or supplies to relevant animal charities. Or leave balls/toys for other pets at the vets or at the park or beach in their pet’s name and memory. You can also turn their food or drinking bowl into a plant holder, and/or put their collar around it. Having a framed photo and/or poem at home can also be comforting, or you might like to get an ornament for indoors, or something for the garden. Whatever feels right.
Pets are companions. They have individual personalities. They form unique connections and relationships with us. And they are loyally there for us, every day; keeping us company, entertaining us, distracting, amusing, and loving. To be loved by an animal is an incredible privilege. If you’ve been fortunate enough to experience this, then you can count yourself blessed. Paw prints on your heart. Xx
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