How to Cope with the Loss of a Pet
As pet lovers, we understand that the bonds we create with our pets are great and their loss can be heartbreaking. On behalf of the entire VETMED staff, we offer our deepest condolences and hope that you find peace and strength as you go through this difficult time.Below we’ve compiled some tips and advice that we hope will provide comfort as you grieve the loss of your beloved pet.
How to Cope with the Loss of a Pet
When a pet dies, it’s a significant loss to anyone who considers their pet an important member of the family. It’s normal to grieve in the same way one would for a family member. Animals provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support, and unconditional love. If you understand and accept this bond between humans and animals, you’ve already taken the first step toward coping with pet loss: knowing that it is okay to grieve in whatever way feels right to you when your pet dies.
Coping with grief
While grief is a personal experience, you don’t need to face your loss alone. Many forms of support are available, including pet-bereavement counseling services, pet-loss support hotlines, local or online pet-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 it.
- Don’t hesitate to reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear. If you need support beyond the sympathetic ear of a friend or family member, you can receive help from the ASPCA Pet Loss Support program, including information on meeting the emotional needs of children at the time of a pet’s death. Call (877) GRIEF-10.
- Make a donation in your pet’s name as a personal remembrance to honor your kindred spirit’s life. The Phoenix Zoo, Arizona Animal Welfare League & ASPCA, and the Humane Society of the United States accept memorial donations.
- Plant a tree in your pet’s name as a lasting tribute.
- Prepare a memorial for your pet. Here at VETMED we offer cremation services which include the respectful treatment of your pet’s body and the collection of ashes. We recommend spreading or burying those ashes in a place meaningful to you and your pet.
- Write about your feelings, either in a journal, blog, poem, essay, or short story.
Signs of Normal Grief
Everyone grieves in their own way, and grief is natural and normal. Some show it openly, while others grieve privately – there really is no wrong way, and while women often need to talk and cry, men most commonly prefer to stay busy and feel angry instead of sad.
Common signs of grief include:
Physical: crying, shock, nausea, headache, stomach ache, shortness of breath, fatigue, exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, tightness in chest
Mental: denial, confusion, preoccupation with the loss, feeling overwhelmed, disturbing dreams and mental images, comforting dreams or visitations
Emotional: sadness, anger, anxiety, panic, despair, loneliness, depression, guilt, relief, irritability, need to talk and reminisce over and over again
Social: loss of interest in normal activities, desire to be alone or an intense need to be around others, inability to work, the impulse to move, a need to stay busy
Spiritual: anger at God or a renewed belief in a Higher Power, search for deeper meaning in life, personal growth or maturation of character, paranormal visions and dreams, the desire to memorialize
For more information visit www.veterinarywisdomforpetparents.com.
Caring for Other Pets While Grieving
Pets experience loss in similar ways as humans do, so it’s important to acknowledge their grief and care for them with extra loving support. Try to give surviving pets lots of extra love and attention, and try to maintain a normal routine.
Surviving pets may whimper, refuse to eat or drink, and show signs of lethargy, especially if they had a close bond with your deceased pet. If your remaining pets continue to act out of sorts, contact your family veterinarian to ensure there isn’t a medical issue.
It’s never an easy decision to make, but perhaps the kindest thing you can do for a pet that is extremely ill or so severely injured that it will never be able to resume a life of good quality, is to have your veterinarian induce its death quietly and humanely through euthanasia.
Find answers to your questions about euthanasia here >
If you’ve compassionately chosen euthanasia as the best end-of-life decision for your pet, you have the option to do it in the hospital or at home. In the hospital your pet receives a series of two medications for a painless, peaceful departure. For at-home euthanasia, we recommend the following services:
- Angel Vet Services
- Valet Vet Mobile Veterinary Services, Dr. Gina
- Happy Endings Pet Euthanasia, Dr. Fixler
- Pet Home Euthanasia, Dr. Michelle Morrison
- Gentle Journey, Dr. Christina Nutter
- Paws at Peace, Dr. Monica Brown
Local Support Groups:
- Hospice of the Valley Pet Loss Support
- Hospice of the Valley Support Meeting Schedule
- Arizona Humane Society
Grief Websites for Pet Loss & Bereavement:
- American Veterinary Medical Association
- Argus Institute for Families and Veterinary Medicine
- Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
- Cornell University Pet Loss Support Line
- Grief Healing
- Penn Vet Grief Support and Social Services
- PetLoss: Pet Grief Support and Candle Ceremony
- Pet Loss Help
- The Pet Loss Resource Guide
- Care2: Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Cat or Dog
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….