“When tomorrow starts without me
Don’t think we’re far apart
For every time you think of me
I’m right here inside your heart”
Grief is defined as “deep sorrow, especially when caused by someone’s death.” This is also a strong emotion we feel when dealing with the loss of our pets. Death is never easy. It is saying goodbye to a loved one and accepting that they will no longer be in your life. Everyone experiences grief differently. There is no wrong or right way to mourn. This article will discuss the 5 stages of grief and ways people cope with the devastating loss of a pet. These stages are not a linear path and you may experience each of the stages at different moments or revisit a stage at any point. By understanding the grieving process, you will be better prepared to manage your grief.
After your pet has died, it is natural and normal to feel grief and sorrow. Euthanasia is a humane method provided by veterinary professionals that involves the injection of a medication that will eventually cause unconsciousness and death by slowing down the heart rate. Euthanasia is the kindest thing you can do for a pet that is extremely ill or so severely injured that they will never be able to resume a life of good quality. If you are unsure whether it is time to euthanize, make a list of 5 activities your pet enjoyed. If they are no longer doing those things or it seems like it is too hard for them, then you may need to make a decision. There is more information on our Geriatric Care page to assist you on this path.
5 Stages of Grief
–Denial is the immediate shock of the loss, thinking it didn’t actually happen and that we will see our pet walk out of the bedroom towards us. This is the “disbelief” stage, where we can think it must not have happened and it was all just a dream. The pet will be home waiting for us when we get home and greet us at the door. They will be lying in their favorite spot, enjoying the sunshine or cool breeze.
–Anger is feeling guilt about being sad, feeling guilt about euthanizing our pet. We may feel angry at the pet for leaving us so soon or angry at ourselves for letting them go. It’s alright to feel anger and it’s alright to feel sad. You may have doubts whether you did the right thing, but in the end, it was the best choice for your pet.
–Bargaining: “If only…..” This may cross our minds frequently. If only we had caught the sickness sooner, if only we had seen the signs, if only they could live forever.
–Depression is feeling sadness and crying tears of pain for our pet. This may happen when we think about the pet or when we see their favorite toy or blanket. The emotions of letting go hits us hard, but we must be honest with ourselves about how we feel. If you feel despair, talk to someone who is receptive and non-judgmental to help you work through your grief. Talking about your sorrow and sharing stories of your pet may help you to eventually reach the 5th stage of grief.
–Acceptance is coming to terms with the reality of the loss and adjusting to your new life which no longer includes the pet. Our hearts never heal completely because there will always be a spot for our pet. Memories help comfort us during this period. Remember all the time spent together and activities shared.
There are several ways to remember your pet. Some coping mechanisms to help you move on/memorialize your pet include getting your pet cremated and receiving the ashes in an urn. Some cremation services accept special urn orders where a picture of your pet can be put on the cover or you can have ashes in necklaces. Keychains or other little objects to carry with you may also be available. This way you can have them in your home or with you as a way to show respect to your beloved pet. You may even want to scatter the ashes or place them in a special place such as a garden, pet cemetery, or a place where you and your pet enjoyed going together.
Some people make shadow boxes with objects that the pet enjoyed. You can put their collar and tags in the box, along with their favorite toy. You could have paw prints made, either with ink or clay. These too could go in the shadow box. If permanent remembrance is for you, you could get the pet’s paw print or picture tattooed on your body. Pictures are always a nice way to remember your pet and putting them in a special picture frame allows for a nice display in your home. Also, you may eventually get another pet. This new pet is not a replacement, but is an opportunity to give a new animal all the love and care your departed friend experienced, subsequently, bringing joy and love into ourselves again.
Article written by: Lindsey G.