Dealing with the Loss of a Pet

I have had many animals throughout my life time. I have lost animals in may different ways. Some have died of old age, some died young of unknown causes, some have died because of my mistreatment and lack of knowledge, and I have also had the horrible misfortune of having a cat go missing. I am grateful that I have not yet had to experience the process of euthanization with a pet. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to make the choice to put down a family member. Although, each way of losing a pet is painful, some are easier to deal with than others.

Growing up, I have always been surrounded by animals, therefore also surrounded by death. As awful as that sounds, I am grateful for it. I am not scared of death. I also feel that I appreciate life more than others. I cherish the time that I have with those that I love and take advantage of the abilities that I have to create the best possible life for my animals while they are with me.

When an animal passes, I am confident that I did the best that I could to provide them with the best possible life. Knowing this, gives me comfort and enables me to accept their death easier.

However, I understand that to many (my self included), the death of a pet can be devastating, life changing, and incredibly hard to overcome. The death of a pet is the death of a family member. We experience the same grief process when an animal dies that we experience when a human we love dies. On top of attempting to cope with grief, we can feel that we are being 'silly' or 'stupid'. We often hold back our feelings and keep them private, because we are scared to share them with others, since after all, it was 'just an animal'. It is important to accept these feelings and understand that death of a loved one is a trauma. Love is love, it doesn't matter if it is love between two humans or love between a human and an animal.

Grief is a normal response. To move on with life and to move forward, you must deal with the grief, depression, guilt, denial, anger and heartbreak. If you don't, other health problems may occur. I have found that the following are helpful when dealing with the loss.

- Accept your grief, let yourself feel the pain. Once you accept and feel it, you can begin to heal and move towards feeling better

- Do not analyze yourself or your feelings

- Spend time with those that are also experiencing the loss, talk about what you are experiencing. Together, talk about positive events and characteristics of the pet. Recall the pet's whole life, not just the end.