Losing a Pet

Alex Robboy, CAS, MSW, LCSW
Individual, Couples & Family Therapy
IMAGO Certified Marriage Counselor
AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor
Founder & Director of the Center for Growth Inc.

Posted by: Alex Robboy
CAS, MSW, LCSW Individual, Couples & Family Therapy IMAGO Certified Marriage Counselor AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor Founder & Director of the Center for Growth Inc.

Grief Therapy in Philadelphia: About Losing a Pet: pets are a part of the family.  They depend on their humans for companionship and basic needs, therefore creating a close bond. When a pet dies, the feelings of loss are very real.  The pet may have been ill for some time needing constant care and support, or perhaps he/she died tragically or suddenly.  No matter what the cause, the loss is felt deeply by the human companions. Some people are very attached to their pets and grieve openly, while others grieve silently.  Some may get another pet right away, while others do not or may never get another pet.  Each individual deals with the loss of their beloved friend on a personal level.  One should not judge another’s decisions, nor accept judgment from any other-the loss of a pet is very personal and each person needs to work toward healing in their own way.

After a pet passes away you may feel an emptiness inside. Losing a pet is hard. Perhaps the pet was your only companion, therefore your experience a tremendous void in your daily life. You may unconsciously look for the pet, and suddenly realize they are no longer living.  Other pets in the home may feel the loss as well, and may become depressed-not wanting to play or eat, or even seemingly searching for their “friend.”  All the day to day interactions shared with your pet are now lost, and create a void.

Feelings of sadness, grief, crying, anger, and depression can occur after losing a pet / death of pet.  You too may feel a lack of motivation to do things you once enjoyed or may even be unable to look at another animal for it may bring a rush of emotion. These are very real feelings and are part of the grieving process. Recognize and acknowledge your loss, and your feelings, and you can begin to heal.  Your pet was a part of your family, and now they are gone.

Working Toward Healing after losing a pet :it is true-there are people who do not understand the human animal bond, and sometimes they may say cruel things.  You are best to avoid those people if possible, for they lack the understanding and experience of a human and pet relationship.  Consider it their loss for never knowing what joy sharing a life with a pet can bring.  Forgive them for their lack of experience and do not allow their negative response to be imposed upon you.  You know what your pet meant to you, and that is all that matters.

Allow yourself the time and permission to grieve for your friend.  It is okay to cry and mourn their loss.  Your pet was a part of your life, and obviously one that you cared for deeply.

Choose what you would like to do with their belongings.  There is no right or wrong action.  You need to do what makes you feel good.  Perhaps you may choose to donate bedding, leftover food, toys, etc. or maybe you want to hold onto those items.  It is your decision and one in which no one should interfere.

Give yourself time to heal.  While you may always feel the void of absence of your beloved friend, with time it may become easier to remember and focus on the precious moments shared.  Remember your pet had many happy times before death-these are good memories to hold.

Developing a Plan of Action for how to handle losing a pet:   
* First and foremost, acknowledge your loss.  Losing a pet is hard. Losing your pet is unthinkable. Recognize your activities and your relationship with the pet, has now changed.
* Allow yourself to cry and feel angry (as long as you don’t hurt yourself or any one else).  Both are part of the grieving and healing process
* Try to avoid placing blame, whether it be on yourself or others.  Unfortunately, your loss is what is, and blaming won’t change it.  Holding on to blame will only make you feel bad and impede your healing process.
* Find a release that works for you.
Journaling write your thoughts and feelings in a notebook.  Writing,  using your own emotions, thoughts, and words, is a form of release and allows you to safely express all your thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment.
Exercise take a walk in a different place.  Notice the scenery around you as you walk.  Breathe in the fresh air on your walk.  Really concentrate on what you are seeing as you journey.  Perhaps you and your beloved pet had a favorite place.  If you feel comfortable, visit that place, and remember the times shared there.
Join a gym or exercise class, if finances allow. Perhaps seek enrollment in a Tai Chi class.  If you are not able to afford classes or memberships, create your own exercise program at home.  Yoga, pilates, strength training, all have affordable resources available, making it relatively easy to set-up a program at home.  Exercise will help you to utilize your energy and relieve some of the stress and heartache you may be feeling.
Nurture your spiritual health, whatever your beliefs.  Seek the guidance and support of those with similar beliefs.  Read and study readings that support your beliefs and practices.  Develop a sense of spirituality about yourself-concentrate and form a belief system that meets your needs. If your belief is that of, “I’ll see my pet again,” then hold onto to that belief-do not allow anyone to impart their different opinion upon you.
Meditation/visualization can provide a healing experience when practiced regularly.  Take a few minutes each day to “quiet yourself.”  Choose a quiet place in your home or outdoors, one where you can minimize distractions.  Sit or lie down, close your eyes, and begin to take slow deep breaths.  Concentrate only on the rhythm of your breaths-slowly in and slowly out.  Clear your mind of all thoughts by choosing a key word or phrase to focus on.  For example, “I will heal.  I will remember the good times.”  As you breathe and repeat your key words/phrases, try to see the words in your mind, think about what they really mean, and begin to see yourself doing, feeling, and saying positive things (refer to your lists).  Focus on your strength and abilities, and “see” yourself accomplishing healing in your life.
Make a memory create a special memory box, scrapbook, or photo album.  Include special thoughts, tributes, or mementos.
write a letter to your beloved pet, expressing your feelings about them and the joy they brought to your life.
light a candle to remind you of the love and light your pet brought to your life.
remember your other pets:  They may be feeling the loss to and would benefit from your extra love and attention.  Just because you love another, does not mean you love you deceased pet any less.
make a donation to an animal group in your pet’s name.  This helps other animals and is a wonderful tribute and memory to your pet.
decisions:  Perhaps you may decide to get another pet right away, or you may never feel as if you can get another pet.  That decision is yours and yours alone.  Do not allow others to convince you “what is best for you.”  Only you know what is best, and only you will know the right time.
remember-you will feel better:  You may always feel a sense of the loss, but with time other areas of your life will hold meaning again. You will heal, and you will always remember the special times you shared.

Remember….you have a right to feel: whether your pet died suddenly or tragically, was ill for some time, or you had to make the decision to euthanize, the loss has created a myriad of emotions.  You may feel guilt, sensing there was something more you should have done, or you may blame others.  The fact remains that for whatever reason, your pet has died.  Nothing will change that, and it is imperative for your own healing that you accept that he/she is gone.

You have a right to grieve the loss of your friend and must take steps to support yourself in this process.  Do not allow others to tell you “how you should feel,” and do not blame yourself for your pet’s death.  Death comes to all living things, and although our time may be shortened, we are left with many precious memories.  Focus on those memories; a playful young pup or kitten romping in the grass, your friend chasing a ball or performing tricks, or peacefully snuggling next to you on the sofa.  Memories can help you heal, and keep your friend alive in your heart forever.  You will smile again, when you think of your friend.

Losing a pet is painful. Some people benefit from Grief Therapy.   Speak to a grief counselor now.  267-324-9564. Help is available in Center City Philadelphia PA