Coping with the loss of a family pet

by Steve Pritchard-Jones

If you have experienced the loss of a family pet, you understand that the beautiful bond between animals and humans can be enormously strong. That’s why the grief you may experience with the loss of a family pet can be just as intense as what you feel when you lose a human member of your family.

To make it even worse, pet owners are often forced to decide if a pet’s deteriorating health requires putting their beloved pet to sleep. This is upsetting and can add a layer of confusion to the many emotions we feel during this traumatic time. For some, the grief will be temporary. For others, grief can be long-lasting and devastating. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for making the pain you feel when you lose a pet go away. But there are things you can do to help cope with the grief you experience over the loss of a pet.

Grief and the loss of a pet

The grief you feel over the loss of a pet should never be underestimated. Whether the animal was a faithful dog, a loving cat, or even a turtle, the loss of a family pet can trigger deep feelings of grief. It can affect young children because they are more likely to experience grief after the death of a pet and may act out their sadness in many different ways including changes in behaviour and attitude. It is important to remember that everyone experiences pet loss differently.

Tips for coping with the loss of a family pet

  • Allow yourself to grieve.
  • Give yourself time and have a break from normal daily life. Don’t expect to resume a regular routine immediately.
  • Accept that what you are feeling is normal and nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Don’t worry about reaching out to friends and family for help and comfort.
  • Create a memory aid such as a memory book/picture album.
  • Arrange a pet funeral or scattering of the ashes. This can help the grieving process. The planning can be therapeutic because it will help say goodbye and offer comfort and closure for the whole family.

It is common to experience fluctuations in the intensity of your grief for many months. You may think that you are coping fairly well when an empty dog bowl or cat toy will trigger a rush of grief. This is quite normal, you shouldn’t expect otherwise, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Steve Pritchard-Jones

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Steve Pritchard-Jones

Steve Pritchard-Jones

I am an independent civil celebrant conducting weddings, celebration of life/funerals, commitment, civil partnership, renewal of vows, adoption welcoming, naming, pet funerals, internment or scatter of ashes, memorials service, and even divorce ceremonies in Shropshire, West Midlands, Mid and North Wales, Derbyshire, Staffordshire & throughout the UK.

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