The death of a pet can be an intense loss, comparable with the death of a human loved one, or even greater depending on the situation and the individual pet owner. The loss can be even more intense when the owner has made the difficult decision to end the pet’s life through euthanasia. There are other types of loss that can also cause grieving like a missing pet, loss through personal separation/relocation and accidentally injured or killed.
There is no set amount of time for the grieving process. Some pet owners may even be unable to express their grief socially when it results in the loss of a pet. It somehow seems socially acceptable to grieve for the loss of a loved one, but not as much for the loss of a pet. To make things more difficult, men often internalize their feelings, and may feel it necessary to suppress grief altogether.
After the loss of an animal or pet, there are further ways of coping with grief:
- Change your environment and try putting away pet-related items
- Adjust your daily routine to avoid pet-related situations
- Release emotions through writing or other activities
- Memorialize your pet
Resources for pet loss change regularly, but include: hotlines - some veterinary schools around the US have pet loss support hotlines; online forums - use the search term "pet loss" to locate online forums for grieving pet owners; books - on "pet loss" are available through online and local booksellers.
Pet death is gradually becoming recognized as similar to other forms of death within the family. Some companies may even provide paid leave for such emotional times. Animal chaplains are also becoming popular to help in dealing with the loss of a pet. There are beautiful pet cemeteries throughout the US and a few are now allowing your pet to be buried with you in your plot. Most have great websites explaining what they can and cannot allow at this time, but all are worth exploring. If you prefer to memorialize your pet at home, consider a small marker or monument that can be easily placed without assistance. If you are memorializing a larger animal, such as an equine, a larger monument could be setup while the equipment is there to bury your equine partner.
Another popular option is cremation, with your pets ashes being kept in an urn. (We'll have that information for you in a later post.)