As pet lovers we have all either had to say goodbye to a beloved member of our family or will at some time in the future. It is never an easy task. As some of you may already know, Keef, who was not only a part of our family but also a part of the Kindred Souls family, left us in July.
When a person we love dies everyone expects us to mourn and express our grief. Unfortunately you don’t always get that type of understanding when a pet dies. People don’t always understand how important pets can be in people’s lives and see “just a pet”. As pet lovers, we know this could not be further from the truth.
Our pets are members of our families. We care for them, celebrate them in their accomplishments, carry their photos on our phones and brag about them. In return they give us everything they have in their unconditional love.
Coping with Grief
Coping with grief in the loss of a pet is covered in an excellent article from the Humane Society that explores in more detail the process of grieving, “Coping with the Death of Your Pet“. A few of the points covered in the article are especially important at the time of loss.
In children the loss of a pet is often the first experience with death. As difficult as it may be, the best way to discuss the loss could be in light of your own grief, reassuring the child sadness is OK and helping them grieve. As tempting as it may be, trying to reassure them by saying the pet just ran away is the wrong way to go. It leaves them open to the hope of return and anger if they discover the truth.
In seniors the loss of a pet can be life altering. Those who live alone may experience a loss of purpose and extreme emptiness. It’s critical that they take immediate steps to cope and regain a sense of purpose. When it’s not possible to take on another pet, fostering or volunteering at a shelter could help return that sense of purpose.
In homes with other pets the surviving pet(s) may grieve as well. Refusing to eat, whining and lethargy are not uncommon. Even if there was not an attachment to the other pet, your emotional state can cause distress for them. Giving them a lot of TLC and maintaining their normal routine can go a long way toward helping both of you. If the upset continues beyond a reasonable period a trip to the vet would be in order.
Reacting often causes people to look right away for another pet or to say things like “I’ll never have another dog. I just can’t do this again”. Both extremes are bad. Allow yourself to grieve and when life begins to return to normal allow another animal to enter. Shelters and rescues are waiting for those good animal lovers like you and they need you to join them in making another animal the center of your attention and love. There will always be those who consider animals throwaways or toys but we know they will always be family members.