Ways to Help Cope with Pet Loss


This was probably the hardest post to write but I think it was important to share.
It brought up a lot of emotions and memories but I want anyone else going through what I did to know that what they are thinking and feeling is normal and ok.


Over a year ago my coldest cat(10 years old) Coco started losing weight, we recently moved into an apartment that had a long hallway and Coco would run down the hallway and chase the younger cats.
He was a Roly Poly cat (not overweight just big boned lol) and I thought it was great he was starting to be more active and lose a little weight but within the next few weeks he rapidly lost weight and he had no energy.
One morning his temples were a dark yellow color.
We took him to the animal hospital and the Veterinarian told us it was liver failure.
I could keep him overnight for testing which was almost as much as my two week paycheck or we could have him euthanized.
I had pets growing up but this was my first pet on my own, to have to make a decision basically on the spot was extremely hard and difficult.
I knew in the end it was better to let Coco go than to let him suffer.
When we lose our best friend, any tips that can help us cope is welcome.
Remember, there are no rules, we all grieve differently and we all heal differently.
Do not allow others to dictate to you how you should feel. They did not experience exactly what you do, day in and day out.
There is also no rush.
Some people seem better quicker. Some do not.
Many people feel ready to move on and adopt a pet sooner than others do.
You are ready when you are ready.
I also feel it is important to memorialize your pet in a way that makes you feel good. It’s not just about a sort of closure. It’s about a celebration of their life with you.

Anyone who considers a pet a beloved friend, companion, or family member knows the intense pain that accompanies the loss of that friend.


Am I crazy to hurt so much?

Intense grief over the loss of a pet is normal and natural.
Don't let anyone tell you that it's silly, crazy, or overly sentimental to grieve!
During the years you spent with your pet (even if they were few), it became a significant and constant part of your life.
It was a source of comfort and companionship, of unconditional love and acceptance, of fun and joy.
So don't be surprised if you feel devastated by the loss of such a relationship.
People who don't understand the pet/owner bond may not understand your pain.
Your feelings are valid, and may be extremely painful. But remember, you are not alone: Other pet owners have gone through the same feelings.


What Can I Expect to Feel?

Different people experience grief in different ways.
Besides your sorrow and loss, you may also experience the following emotions:
Guilt
You may feel guilty if you feel responsible for your pet's death-the "if only I had been more careful", “If I only paid more attention” syndrome.

Denial
It's hard to imagine that your pet won't greet you when you come home, or that it doesn't need its evening meal or won’t be your shadow everywhere you go at home.

Anger
Anger can be directed at the illness that took your pet, the driver of the speeding car, the veterinarian who "failed" to save its life.

Depression
Depression is an absolutely natural part of grieving, but can leave you powerless to cope with your feelings.

You have a right to feel pain and grief!
Someone you loved has passed away, and you feel alone and bereaved.
You have a right to feel anger and guilt.

 


What can I do about my feelings?

The most important step you can take is to be honest about your feelings.
Don't deny your pain, or your feelings of anger and guilt.
Only by examining and coming to terms with your feelings can you begin to work through them.
Locking away grief doesn't make it go away. Express it. Cry, scream, pound the floor, talk it out.
Do what helps you the most.
Don't try to avoid grief by not thinking about your pet; instead, remember the good times.
Some find it helpful to express their feelings and memories in poems, stories, or letters to the pet.


By talking to others about Coco and the feelings I was going through really helped me.
I also made a little photo collage memorial, that way he’s still around just not in a physical sense.

Who can I talk to?

If your family or friends love pets, they'll understand what you're going through.
The important thing is not to hide your feelings to appear strong.
Working through your feelings with another person is one of the best ways to put the feelings into perspective and find ways to handle them.
Find someone you can talk to about how much the pet meant to you and how much you miss it-someone you feel comfortable crying and grieving with.

If you don't have family or friends who understand, or if you need more help, ask your veterinarian or humane society to recommend a pet loss counselor or support group.
Check with your church or hospital for grief counseling.
Remember, your grief is genuine and deserving of support.


When is the right time to euthanize a pet?

Your veterinarian is the best judge of your pet's physical condition; however, you are the best judge of the quality of your pet's daily life.
If a pet has a good appetite, responds to attention, seeks its owner's company, and participates in play or family life, many owners feel that this is not the time.
However, if a pet is in constant pain, undergoing difficult and stressful treatments that aren't helping greatly, unresponsive to affection, unaware of its surroundings, and uninterested in life, a caring pet owner will probably choose to end the beloved companion's suffering.
Evaluate your pet's health honestly and unselfishly with your veterinarian.
Nothing can make this decision an easy or painless one, but it is truly the final act of love that you can make for your pet.


I know with Coco it was a decision I had to make that day and it was the hardest decision to make.
I knew prolonging Coco’s suffering in order to prevent my own was only going to be selfish on my part.


Should I stay during euthanasia?

Many feel this is the last gesture of love and comfort you can offer your pet. Some feel relief and comfort by staying.
They were able to see that their pet passed peacefully and without pain, and that it was truly gone. For many, not witnessing the death (and not seeing the body) makes it more difficult to accept that the pet is really gone.
This can be traumatic, and you must ask yourself honestly whether you will be able to handle it. Uncontrolled emotions and tears-though natural may upset or make your pet feel stressed.
Some clinics are more open than others to allowing the owner to stay during euthanasia.
Some veterinarians are also willing to euthanize a pet at home.


The clinic I was in had a separate room with couches and soft music, so it was a comfortable setting. Coco was able to walk around and explore the room.
It was the hardest experience but also the most peaceful experience.


Consider what will be least traumatic for you and your pet, and discuss your desires and concerns with your veterinarian.
If your clinic is not able to accommodate your wishes, request a referral.

 


What do I do next?

When a pet passes away, you must choose how to handle its remains. Sometimes, in the midst of grief, it may seem easiest to leave the pet at the clinic for disposal.
Check with your clinic to find out whether there is a fee for such disposal. Some shelters also accept such remains, though many charge a fee for disposal.
To many, a pet cemetery provides a sense of dignity, security, and permanence. Owners appreciate the serene surroundings and care of the gravesite.
Cemetery costs vary depending on the services you select, as well as upon the type of pet you have.
Cremation is a less expensive option that allows you to handle your pet's remains in a variety of ways: bury them (even in the city), scatter them in a favorite location, place them in a columbarium, or even keep them with you in a decorative urn.
Check with your veterinarian, pet shop, or phone directory for options available in your area.
Consider your living situation, personal and religious values, finances, and future plans when making your decision.
It's also wise to make such plans in advance, rather than hurriedly in the midst of grief.

For Coco the clinic had a Cremation option and his ashes were apparently scattered in a farm field outside of the city. They were also nice enough to take a paw print stamp for me.


What should I tell my children?

You are the best judge of how much information your children can handle about death and the loss of their pet. Don't underestimate them, however. You may find that, by being honest with them about your pet's loss, you may be able to address some fears and misperceptions they have about death.
Honesty is important. If you say the pet was "put to sleep," make sure your children understand the difference between death and ordinary sleep. Never say the pet "went away," or your child may wonder what he or she did to make it leave, and wait in anguish for its return. That also makes it harder for a child to accept a new pet. Make it clear that the pet will not come back, but that it is happy and free of pain.

Never assume a child is too young or too old to grieve. Never criticize a child for tears, or tell them to "be strong" or not to feel sad. Be honest about your own sorrow; don't try to hide it, or children may feel required to hide their grief as well. Discuss the issue with the entire family, and give everyone a chance to work through their grief at their own pace.


Will my other pets grieve?

Pets observe every change in a household, and are bound to notice the absence of a companion. Pets often form strong attachments to one another, and the survivor of such a pair may seem to grieve for its companion. Cats grieve for dogs, and dogs for cats.

You may need to give your surviving pets a lot of extra attention and love to help them through this period.


My pets were confused when I didn’t come back home with Coco that day and they could tell I was very sad.
Feisty and Waffles were very close to Coco and they would snuggle together, I could definitely tell they were grieving him by sitting in Coco’s favorite spot.

 


Should I get a new pet right away?

Generally, the answer is no.
One needs time to work through grief and loss before attempting to build a relationship with a new pet.
If your emotions are still in turmoil, you may resent a new pet for trying to "take the place" of the old-for what you really want is your old pet back. Children in particular may feel that loving a new pet is "disloyal" to the previous pet.
Remember that, the love of your surviving pets can be wonderfully healing for your own grief.
When you do get a new pet, avoid getting a "lookalike" pet, which makes comparisons all the more likely.

I had friends that expected the new pet to be "just like" the one they lost and they found it difficult having a pet that didn’t “know the rules” yet, they gave the pet to a new family shortly after.

Never give a new pet the same name or nickname as the old. Avoid the temptation to compare the new pet to the old one: It can be hard to remember that your beloved companion also caused a few problems when it was young!

A new pet should be acquired because you are ready to move forward and build a new relationship-rather than looking backward and mourning your loss.
When you are ready, select an animal you can build another long, loving relationship-because this is what having a pet is about!


It was the hardest time in my life and it is an everyday process.


I hope you found these helpful.
If you need to talk, feel free to email me at lovingyoujen19@gmail.com or use the form below.

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~Jennifer
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