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Pet Caregiver Support Blog…

Coping with the loss of a beloved pet.

by Kathryn Jennings

For many of us pet parent’s, the bond they have with their companion animal can be a beautiful relationship of unconditional love and loyalty. And as we know, there are many reasons we bring animals into our lives: to provide companionship when we are lonely, to nurture a pet who has been abandoned or neglected, or even to save a life that’s about to be ended through no fault of the pet.

The attachment that forms between pet parent’s and their pets is often so profound that we are shaken to the core by all the feelings that will inevitably arise when they are no longer with us. Questions will arise from within yourself and others such as “Are these feelings of grief normal or common? Who can I turn to share my thoughts and feelings? How can I cope with these overwhelming emotions?

When you lose a beloved pet, you can begin the roller coaster of emotions and feelings that are associated with any loss including the loss of a human. Feelings of anger, sadness, depression, hopelessness, guilt and regrets are all common on the grief journey. And these emotions will be present no matter the circumstances surrounding the death whether they be through euthanasia, a long chronic illness, a tragic accident, or having to surrender your pet due to unforeseen circumstances.

Mourning the loss of your pet is the most vital way to cope with the overwhelming emotions one may experience. Mourning, defined differently than grief itself, the ability for one to outwardly express one’s grief either with others or in private. Having on-going support such as a pet loss support group, or family/friend who empathizes with your loss and can companion you while you continue on your grief into healing journey is essential to coping. What you do want to avoid however sharing with others who disenfranchise or invalidate your feelings of grief with comments such as, “it was just a dog” or “go get another one right away and the grief will go away.”

Sharing the story of your pet and his/her end-of-life experience will help you move through your grief, and although there is never closure to grief, however the intensity of emotions associated with your loss will soften over time. In time through support and memorialization, you will hopefully come to a place where you’re able to reflect upon the life and relationship you had with your pet rather than focusing only on the loss. Consider creating a scrapbook of your beloved pet’s photos and special memories or plant a tree in your pet’s favorite spot in your yard or at a park. You can even hold a funeral/ memorial service or make a donation to an animal related charity or pet loss support organization such as Day By Day Pet Caregiver Support in memory of your companion’s name. Finally, creating a memory table or gravestone can truly capture the essence of the special relationship you shared.

As you continue on your healing journey and find your new normal, at some point you may want to consider bringing a new pet into your life. It’s important that you don’t allow yourself to feel pressured into doing this; the time must be right for you and all the members in your family. One pet can never replace another, but if you feel you have love in your heart to nurture another precious pet, remember there are many shelters filled with pets waiting to be adopted by a loving family.

Keep in mind, one must go on with life even after the loss of one so dear to us. If after a few months you are still finding that you feel stuck in your grief, find it difficult to handle daily life functions, continue to isolate yourself, or that you no longer enjoy the activities you used to, it then would be a good time to consider reaching out for additional counseling beyond support. Your Day By Day team can help you navigate why you are stuck in your grief and offer referrals for counselors or therapists who understand the depths of grief that can come with the loss of a precious pet.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Please reach out to us at any time at 484-453-8210 or at daybydaypetsupport@comcast.net.

Kathryn Jennings, CPLP,

President/Founder of Day By Day

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