Experiencing the death of a furry family member is devastating. If you are reading this then I know that you or someone you know has suffered the loss of a dear pet. Only pet parents can understand the magnitude of how heart breaking the loss of their furry loved one can be. To many of us pet parents our pets are our family members, our best friends, our confidants, our partners in crime and the best representation of unconditional support and love.
No matter how your pet died, it’s important to remember you are not alone and someone else has also been through the same situation. I remember when my cats passed away it was heart wrenching. Most of all I felt at a loss as to what do I do now? How do I go forward? Based on my own experience, here are five helpful steps to take after experiencing the loss of your pet.
5 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO AFTER DEATH OF A PET
TAKE TIME TO GRIEVE
It’s important to take time to grieve. Whatever way that means for you, take time to properly grieve and let the emotions flow. Don’t hold your emotions inside. I cried like a baby ; full on gut wrenching cry the minute I got home. I cried so much my eyes were swollen almost shut. After three days I was all cried out and then proceeded into sadness.
Take whatever time you need to release. I’d like to add a disclaimer that grieving properly means doing so in a manner that doesn’t harm yourself (i.e.: drinking and driving)
REMEMBER YOUR BELOVED PET’S WHOLE LIFE
Secondly, the most difficult part about the grieving process for me was thoughts I had of my cat at the emergency care. Those last images in my head were hard to erase. I still remember.
But it’s important to focus on the memories you had with your pet over their whole life. Remember the first trip you took together? Or remember their first Christmas? How about remembering the first time they had an accident or did something to make you laugh? Those are the moments you want to remember. Our pets would want us to be smiling and remembering them fondly vs. being sad.
DON’T GET ANOTHER PET TOO SOON
After my eldest pet passed away, quite unexpectedly and quickly, it was devastating. After I took time to grieve, I was under the impression my youngest cat would need a fellow companion, so I was presented the opportunity to take in another cat. This was a disaster. My younger cat did not meld well with the new addition –so much so she developed bad nerves and wet herself. Luckily the people who gave the new addition to us willingly accepted her back.
The lesson I learned here was if you have more than one pet, your other pets are also taking time to grieve and get used to the pet loss in the home. Every being feels the loss, not just us. Don’t be too rushed to “replace” that void. Let it happen organically. Feeling loss is painful but it too will get better.
SEEK OUT SUPPORT GROUPS/ FRIENDS
This step is an important one. Take time to seek out support from friends and groups online. In particular, seek out friends with pets. I cannot tell you how many times after I returned to work and hearing, “Sorry about your cat-so when are you getting another one?” Some people just don’t quite understand until it happens to them. Although they may think they are being sincere, it’s very insensitive and disrespectful to the memory of your pet influential part of your life.
Our pets are not just animals but precious family members and friends who give unconditional love until their last breath. So seek out support and talk about your experience to those who will listen and understand. Talking about it helps.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Lastly and most important, please take care of yourself. I’m a work in progress myself on this one. After my cat passed away, I cried, got depressed a bit and just fell out of my routine. I didn’t eat well, or get proper rest because I’d cry myself to sleep. I was a mess.
Also, if you were dealing with an ill pet before they passed on like I was, the stress of giving medications, getting shots, and doctors’ appointments is a lot. The stress of dealing with everything from diagnosis, to fighting illness and eventually dealing with death and final expenses is a lot to deal with.
Our pets only ever want to see us smile and comfort us. Now is the time to do that for yourself a bit more. Get outside. Go for a walk. If that’s too much just get outside and sit on a park bench. Get some fresh air! Try to exercise or get a massage. Try activities to let your mind escape from the loss of your pet. Go with a friend bowling or paint nite class. If you are the loner type, try getting a journal and writing or see a movie.
The important thing is the try to move forward in the direction of regaining some sense of normalcy. Don’t dwell too long in a space of sadness, for our pets wouldn’t want that for our lives.
Keep the memory of them positive and know they are healthy on the other side, no pain and free. Do the same for yourself and take steps to keep yourself healthy and eventually you’ll find your happy again. Our pets wouldn’t want anything more than to see us smiling once again.
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Published July 1, 2016. Updated Oct. 28, 2020.