Losing a pet can be like losing a family member. Because of this, you can expect to feel the same grief and sadness as if you've lost a human friend. It's important to realize that feeling that grief is OK. Move through your grief at your pace, find ways to remember your pet, find support and eventually consider a new four-legged companion.
Moving Through Grief
The feelings and length of grief you experience are different for every person. Your level of grief might depend on your age and personality, the age of your pet and the circumstances of your pet’s death write Lawrence Robinson and Robert and Jeanne Segal in “Coping with Pet Loss” on their website helpguide.org. You might experience *denial, anger, guilt, sorrow and loneliness." Some people even feel like they hear their pet walking or calling or see their pet out of the corner of their eye notes the ASPCA website's FAQ section. Whatever your feelings, it’s important not to rush through them or try to suppress them.
Remembering Your Pet
Finding rituals or ways to remember your pet can help you move through your grief.
Funeral or Memorial Service -- Many cities have pet funeral homes that handle picking up your pet's remains, planning a funeral and a burial location. If your city doesn’t have a pet funeral home, you can plan a small memorial at your home. This allows everyone a chance to say goodbye to your pet.
Memento -- You might plant a tree or make a plaster or stone cast with some memento from your companion. You can also make a scrapbook or photo album that allows you to share pictures of your pet with others.
Writing -- Writing about your feelings in a journal, poem or short story can also help you cope according to the article “Coping With the Death of Your Pet” on the Humane Society of the United States' website.
Your local humane society may offer a pet loss support group. Many organizations have websites dedicated to providing numbers for pet loss hotlines and information on support groups. The Rainbow Bridge Pet Loss Grief Center and Pet Partners both provide a number of resources.
The pet loss grief support community at Rainbow Bridge offers forums and chat rooms where you can talk with others who have lost companions, as well as helpful articles on grief and pet loss hotlines. The Pet Partners website offers links to every state that has a counseling or support group.
Getting a New Pet
You might feel like you need to rush out immediately and get a new pet to replace the one you lost, but it’s best to wait until you’ve worked through your grief according to the Humane Society and Robinson and the Segals. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends waiting at least one month before bringing home a new pet.
Two groups can have an especially difficult time dealing with the loss of a pet, children and seniors.
Children — The loss of your pet might be your child’s first experience with death. It’s your responsibility to show him how to cope with grief. Let your child see you express your own grief, reassure your child that he isn’t responsible for the death and allow him to participate in any rituals recommend Robinson and the Segals.
Seniors — Losing a pet may mean losing the only companion a senior had in her home, it can also remind her of other losses and her own mortality according to the Humane Society.