When we lose a pet, it can be devastating and coming to terms with it is part of an ongoing process that may last a long time. But you’re not alone and there are many things you can do to make coping with your loss easier.
Create a memorial
Many owners find that creating a memorial can help, like holding a small remembrance service in your garden or planting a tree or plant, either where your pet is buried, or in a favourite spot. This can also help children with the loss of a pet, as they watch the tree grow and blossom and remember their pet.
Moreover, try to acknowledge and explain the pet’s death to children in age-appropriate terms, whilst avoiding confusing euphemisms, or underplaying the gravity of the situation. Most children appreciate honesty and will benefit in the long term from not being misled. In light of this, it’s always more constructive to avoid terms such as ‘gone away’ or ‘sleeping’, in case they get confused and build false expectations rather than accept the reality of having to saying goodbye.
Share your feelings
Don’t be shy about sharing your how you feel. Opening up to someone who has been through the same thing can be a great comfort. If you’d rather not talk to someone you know, The Society of Companion Animal Studies and the Blue Cross have created a Pet Bereavement Support Service.
Volunteers at the Pet Bereavement Support Service are there to counsel and listen to pet owners who have been bereaved. The volunteers, of all ages and backgrounds, have been through an intensive training programme to help people just like you. They take calls in their own home and will offer a listening ear, even if they can’t be there as a shoulder to cry on, to help you get through this hard time.
You can contact their helpline on freephone 0800 096 6606 every day between 8.30am and 8.30pm. Alternatively, you can email them at email@example.com or visit their website at www.scas.org.uk. Also on the website is a range of other resources to help give you all the support you need at this difficult time.
When to get a new pet
There’s no need to rush into getting a new pet. In fact, it’s a better idea to give yourself time to fully recover and obtain some closure. If you still feel the loss of your previous pet it could detract from what should be the start of a beautiful new relationship, a time when you and your new pet should be having fun getting to know one another.
Any new pet you bring home deserves a chance to develop their own personality and earn your love without living in the shadow of your previous pet, so when you do decide to get a new companion, avoid one that looks too similar. Ultimately, you must do what’s fair to both of them, and that means treating them with the respect they both deserve.
It is not silly to feel deeply upset, even devastated, by the loss of your pet. If you feel very depressed, you should talk to people who can understand what you’re going through. Contact your GP and phone the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (1850 60 90 if you’re in ROI), or visit them at www.samaritans.org