Losing your pet to death is a horrible experience to go through. Nothing can prepare you for it, even if your pet had been ill for a while and you had been expecting it. Sadness, loneliness, despair and even guilt and anger are all natural emotions and how long these feelings last is down to each individual.
It’s not so much about coping with your pet’s death, more about learning to live with it. Commemorate your pet’s life – look at old photographs, buy a small tree and plant it in their memory. Allow yourself time each day to think about them – not when they were old or ill, but when they were in the prime of their life.
If your pet has been cremated and you have his or her ashes, you may find once you have laid them to rest, the grief subsides a little. If your pet died in an accident and the body was never recovered, bury a few of their toys in their favourite position in the garden.
Talk to your friends and family and explain how you feel – don’t feel embarrassed, your pet was a family member.
If there are surviving pets in the household, they too may be grieving. Give them extra reassurance, but don’t alter their routine, as this will distress them even more.
Whether you decide to get another pet straight away or to wait a while is your choice – some people feel guilty for trying to ‘replace’ their pet and others – especially those who were nursing ill or elderly pets – may feel they need a breathing space.
On the other hand, you may find that there is a big void in your life that only a pet could fill, or you may find shifting your attention onto a new pet helps you with your grief. Whatever you do, it’s your decision and you should never let anyone talk you into getting or not getting another pet. (Note: If your pet died of an infectious disease and you want to get a new pet straight away, check with your vet first that it is okay as strains of the infections may still be present in your home).
Finally, look after yourself. Try to eat well and get as much sleep as you can. To many pet owners, losing their pet is like losing a partner and the grief can be overwhelming. Take each day a step at the time and don’t expect to suddenly feel great overnight.
With time, the feelings of sadness and angst will lessen, even if they do not completely go, and you will be able to look back with happy memories at the time you and your pet spent together.