Saying goodbye to your pet: coping with the death of a pet
When you lose someone you love, you expect to feel empty and sad, and to go through the natural stages of grief. When we lose a pet, we may be surprised by just how much we’re affected by their death.
Yet our pets are our constant companions – they’re always there when we get home from work, or at the end of a long day, and are often a reassuring presence in our homes and our lives, with their emotional support and unconditional love.
In fact, you probably see more of your pet than you do of most friends and family! So it’s only natural to feel devastated when a pet dies, and to need time to grieve over the loss of your furry friend.
How to deal with the loss of a pet
There are two types of people: pet owners, and those who’ve never known the joy of owning a pet. The second kind may find it almost impossible to comprehend the overwhelming sorrow you feel when you lose a pet. However much they love you, these people might find it hard to empathise with the grief you feel when you lose a dog or cat.
It’s important to take time out, and give yourself space to grieve. Consider taking a couple of days off work, though having a focus can often help.
Be kind to yourself – whatever form that takes. Get plenty of rest, sleep, and fresh air, eat healthily, and talk to a sympathetic friend.
There’s no set amount of time to get over the loss of a pet, so be patient with yourself. The grieving process may take a few days, or it may be months before you start to feel better, and ready, perhaps, to think about getting a new pet. Whatever works for you.
Losing a beloved pet may be your child’s first experience of death, and it’s hard for them to understand, whatever their age.
Just like you, your child will go through the entire grieving process, and may express a range of emotions – not just sadness – ranging from denial to anger, and even guilt.
It’s best to be honest about what’s happened, rather than softening the blow and lying with the intention of protecting your child. By expressing your own grief, you’re letting your child know it’s okay to be sad. They may like to work with you to create a scrapbook of memories of your pet, and to share stories of times they enjoyed with their furry friend.
Your local library is a good source of books that deal with the loss of a pet, if you need help breaking the news to your child, or you may consider talking to a pet bereavement counsellor or online service.
You may find the following websites useful:
Or check out our other article helping children understand pet loss to learn more.
Remember – you’re not alone.
Everyone chooses to remember their pet in different ways. You may like to scatter your pet’s ashes on a favourite walk or plant a rose bush in your pet’s memory.
You may decide to keep a memory box of things that remind you of your pet – precious photos of happy times, their collar or name tag, or even a lock of their fur – or perhaps you prefer to cherish the memories of the times you’ve had together.
But however you decide to remember your pet, you know you’ll never forget your faithful friend, and in time you’ll move on from sadness and look back on your time together with smiles and laughter.
Need help and advice on dealing with the death of a pet?
For information and support to help you deal with the death of a pet, speak to your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.