Coping With The Loss Of A Pet
If you’re reading this, you probably recently had to say goodbye to your beloved pet as they crossed the Rainbow Bridge and are wondering how to cope with the loss of a pet. Firstly, it’s okay to grieve. Secondly, no matter how long your pet was in your life they made a profound impact on you and it’s okay to take time to feel these emotions and make room for them. Your pet was not “just a cat” or “just a dog”. People have been telling those who have lost their pets this for centuries (Dewey 1890-1910). Your pet was a member of your family who was loved very much. You still remember the day you brought your beloved pet home and as the years passed the bond you two shared grew. This pain of losing your companion can be overwhelming but remember, it’s going to be okay and you should never feel guilty or ashamed for what you are feeling after the loss of a pet.
Grieving the Loss of a Pet
Grief is different for everyone. For some it may only take a few days, for others – years. You may go through all or some of the stages of grief during this time in any order:
It’s important while you’re experiencing grief to reach out to others. You are not alone in your grieving. Talk to trusted friend or family member, a professionally-trained therapist, or reach out to one of the numerous pet loss hotlines around the country.
Here are some more ways to help you through the grief:
- Donate to an animal related charity or to the shelter you adopted them from in memorial of your pet.
- Write down your emotions.
- Purchase a pet memorial – Etsy has many creative artists who can memorialize your pet.
- Stay connected with friends, you don’t have to be alone with your emotions during this if you don’t want to be.
- Take care of yourself. Do something that makes you feel good even if you don’t think it will help.
- Sticking to your daily habits – making sure to shower, put away dishes, and doing laundry are some things that come to mind.
Coping with the loss of a pet is a personal process and figuring out what helps you through your grief is important. Everybody is different. If you are feeling that this is too much to bare, please remember there are always people here to talk at 1-800-273-8255.
Children Grieving the Loss of a Pet
The loss of a pet may be the first time your child has first experienced death and can be a traumatic experience. This time is when you can teach your child about grief and emotional pain and how to work through it. How you handle this process will determine how the child views the experience and how they’ll understand coping with the loss of a pet in the future. Honesty is the best policy, even when talking to children, as later in life they may feel betrayed or hurt when they understand that Fluffy didn’t go to a farm. Of course the age of your child will depend on what language you use when talking to them but making clear statements and answering questions honestly is a step in the right direction towards healing.
Here are some other steps you can take to help a child cope with the loss of a pet:
- Allow your child to express their grief and let them see your grief.
- Reassure them that it’s not their fault.
- Allow your child to participate. This could involve having them help you pick out a memorial or them picking out their own. It could also be helping them to put the name plate on your pets urn if you opted for cremation and if your urn has a removable name plate.
- Don’t be quick to rush out and get a new pet. Ask your child before getting a new pet if they feel ready.
Getting a New Pet
Only you know when it’s time to start considering adopting a new pet. Some people find the emptiness of the house to be too much and adopt a new pet soon. Others take months or years to open their homes to a new pet. There is no right time frame to do this. If other members of your household are grieving the loss of a pet, consult with them before adopting a new pet. If you’re unsure if you’re ready to adopt a new pet but want an animals companionship, consider volunteering at an animal rescue or shelter. This can help you understand your emotions and grief better and if you’re ready to adopt a new pet.
Coping with the loss of a pet is deeply personal and there is no right or wrong way to approach it. Children may have difficulty understanding what has happened but being honest with them can help them through their grief. Only you know when your heart is ready to welcome a new pet into your home, don’t rush it. Below I have included some poems I have found in my travels around the internet that have provided me comfort during the passing of my pets. I hope that you may find even an ounce of comfort within them as well:
Eyes Bright, Claws Sharp
ᛏᚪᛁᛚ ᚻᛖᛚᛞ ᚻᛁᚷᚻ.
ᚷᚩ ᚳᛖᛖᚾᛚᛁ ᛁᚾᛏᚩ ᚦᛖ ᛘᛁᛋᛏ, ᚩᛚᛞ ᚹᚪᚱᚱᛡᚱ.
ᚠᚪᛚᚻᚪᛚᛚᚪ ᚹᚪᛁᛏᛋ ᚠᚩᚱ ᛁᚩᚢ.
tail held high.
Go keenly into the mist, old warrior.
Valhalla waits for you
The Rainbow Bridge Poem
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.