In the majority of households, animals aren’t just pets they’re beloved members of the family. Think “little people” with fur, feathers or scales. Personally, I’m the type of person who gets very attached to animals. They’ve always been a part of my life.
Back in 1997, I got a cat named Normand. He was the best cat EVER. He followed me all over the country and adapted to every setting, from small apartment in the city to a 90-acre farm in the country. He lived a good life and he passed away when he was 17 years old. I was with him when he took his last breath – he died of natural causes right on my lap.
Yesterday, I lost my dog Maggie. She was about 10 years old and recently started suffering from seizures. It was awful to see her like that and the vet assured me that, in this case, putting her to sleep was the best decision. I didn’t want to see her suffering anymore and I didn’t feel like extending her life by medicating her would have improved her quality of life at all so she was put to sleep less than 24 hours ago (at the time of writing).
Maggie was such a special dog and we were really blessed to have her in our lives. She was always there to greet me when I got home from work. She followed the kids down the driveway every morning to wait for the school bus. She loved to go for walks and followed us all over the farm. I just miss her so much and the house seems so empty now without her hanging around.
So we cried a lot last night (I know I did) but I just keep reminding myself that she is in a better place now, no longer suffering.
That being said, dealing with the loss of a pet is particularly devastating. If you’ve experienced losing a pet, keep reading, to learn how to better cope with this life-changing event.
Tell Your Children
Telling your children about a pet’s death can be extremely difficult. This is especially true when the children are too young to understand why their (sometimes life-long) companion is suddenly gone.
If possible, go someplace quiet and free of distractions to explain the situation. You might start out by saying that animals get sick just like people do. Assure you children that it’s ok to be sad and to cry.
Don’t be overly alarmed if one of your children becomes withdrawn over the loss, unless it continues for an extended period of time. This type of withdrawal is normal. However, if it lasts for weeks, you may want to seek professional assistance.
I have a 7-year old (Sara) and a 15-year old (Sage). Sara was very upset yesterday when I told her Maggie was going to “Doggie Heaven”. I explained to her that Maggie was very old and that she was sick. My other daughter Sage who is quite a bit older fully understood the situation but was upset nevertheless.
Hold a Memorial
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with holding a memorial for your pet. While some non-pet owners may consider it silly, it helps with the process of closure. This memorial doesn’t have to be elaborate. Reciting a simple poem has just as much meaning than doing something that takes a lot more effort.
I’m considering getting a “Memorial Stone” which are readily available on Amazon. They are like a little headstone that you can put in any corner of your yard as a little memorial to your fur baby.
Find a Support Group
It’s not uncommon for some individuals, who are grieving over the loss of a pet, to attend a support group. New animal bereavement support groups are forming all of the time. Many humane societies also host weekly or monthly meetings.
If there’s nothing in your area, you can either start a group yourself or attend s traditional bereavement meeting. Support of this kind is support, no matter how you look at it.
When a pet dies, the stages you go through are essentially the same as when you lose a human loved one. These stages include shock, denial, anger, distancing, guilt and depression. Not everyone will go through all of the stages. This is because everyone deals with death differently.
Remember, there is no set-in-stone set of rules or instructions to follow when a pet dies. The only thing you can do is take it one day at a time. It may not seem like it now, but, in time, things will get easier. At some point, you’ll be able to look back on the good times with a smile on your face, without feeling complete and total devastation.