How to Cope with Pet Bereavement

by CJRose

We don't always know how to deal the grief that comes with the death of a beloved pet. In this article I will share 12 coping strategies I have used to handle pet bereavement.

Pet bereavement is often minimized in our society. We may not know how to express our grief. We fear people will ridicule us for grieving for our pet. Maybe we feel that we ought to get over our loss quickly. However, for the sake of our emotional health, we owe it to ourselves to mourn the loss of our special friends.

My Experience of Pet Bereavement

A couple of weeks ago I lost my 15 year old pet lovebird Regi.  He was hand-reared and extremely tame. He would sit on my hand and give me kisses.  When he wanted out, he would bang on his bars, twirl on his perches and tweet very loudly.  He was a wonderful pet and companion, who everyone loved dearly.  

Although his ending was peaceful, it was still very painful.  Obviously having a pet for fifteen years is a long time.  He has left a big hole, literally; the living room seems so empty without him.   I miss him especially at night time, which was our time.  However I am developing coping strategies to face life without him.




12 Coping Strategies

The things that have helped me most were:

1. Photos -  The good thing about living in the digital age is we have so many ways of taking photos.  Treat yourself to some nice frames or even a digital photo frame.  Put some photos of your pet in them to remind you of happy times. 

2. Talk to your pet - This sounds crazy, but in my down times, I still talk to Regi in my head.  I say goodnight to him and good morning.  When I feel particularly bad I will tell him all about it.  Just as I used to in life.

3. Talking to others who understand - There are a number of free helplines available such as the Bluecross, who have trained volunteers to help you deal with your loss.  If you feel you need more help then get in touch with pet bereavement counselor.  Another option is to join a forum for bereaved pet owners. Talking to others who are going through the same experiences will help you feel less alone.

4. Doing things that are enjoyable - reading a good book or magazine, meet friends, watch a film you enjoy, listen to some uplifting music or whatever you enjoy.  It doesn't have to be anything big.   

5  Writing about it - You can write about how you are feeling.  Get it all out.  I find doing this clears it from my mind and allows me to focus on the positive.

6. Donating to pet charities - making a small donation to an appropriate charity, for example Dogs Trust if you had a dog, will give you comfort in knowing you are helping other animals.

7. Make a keepsake - for example a locket with your pet's picture or a scrapbook in memory of your pet.  You might want to look at your pet's favourite toys.  I have a collection of Regi's feathers that I keep in a box.

8. Have an area in your home for your pet.  Put his or her picture there and some plants or flowers. You can go to this area when you feel sad.  You might also want to make some time every day to go your area and remember your pet. 

9. The outdoors - Go out and have a walk.  Not only will this give you some exercise, which will help you feel better, but you may see other people with their pets, and remember how happy you were.  I went to a glasshouse near where I live that has some parrots.

10. Reading - Reading what others have written about pet bereavement.  "Rainbow Bridge" is a well-known poem about pet bereavement.   

11. Take it easy - for a while afterwards don't out yourself under a lot of pressure.  If you can take some time off work.  Go away for a while even if it is just for a day trip.  

12. Have a positive project to take your mind off things.  Perhaps you'd like to learn a new skill or plan a holiday.  Plan something that will move your life forward.

Moving On

I have learned it is okay to be sad and to miss Regi.  In the past I have tried to escape bad feelings, but by letting myself experience them, they pass.  For some of the day I do feel sad, however the rest of the time I can enjoy life.  There are some things which I couldn't do before Regi passed away, for example go out for long periods of time or do work in my study (Regi preferred me to sit with him in the living room on my laptop).    

Slowly life goes on.  It will never be the same as it was before. But then no day is the ever the same.  The places and people we have in our lives may be the same as yesterday, but life moves on and we change. You don't have to feel guilty about moving on with your life. Your pet would want you to be happy.


Books to Help With Pet Loss

When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing

Affirming a pet owner's struggle with grief when his or her pet dies, this book helps mourners understand why their feelings are so strong and helps them overcome the loss.

View on Amazon

The Pet Loss Companion: Healing Advice from Family Therapists Who Lead Pet Loss Groups

Everyone who's ever loved an animal companion will find wisdom and solace in this book. The authors share stories drawn from decades of experience leading pet loss groups.

View on Amazon

The Rainbow Bridge: Pet Loss Is Heaven's Gain

Your pet has gone to Heaven, and is waiting to be reunited with you someday. A Memorial Service for your beloved animal companion.

View on Amazon

Updated: 01/16/2014, CJRose
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CJRose on 01/16/2014

Hi Frank Yes that is a lovely idea. Like your pet living on. I am going to put some roses down when the ground settles. Thanks for your comments. Carol

frankbeswick on 01/16/2014

Burying your pet beneath the rose bushes is a pleasant way to send it off. The body is a great soil enricher, and when you see the blossoms you can think of your pet.

CJRose on 01/16/2014

Hi Lindy Lou I think that although it hurts to lose a pet, it's worth the pain of having a pet. I don't regret a single moment with Regi and do believe in an after life for animals. Thanks for commenting Carol

CJRose on 01/16/2014

Hi Night Owl I definitely think that a dignified service is a a loving way to say good bye to our pets and honor the place they had in our lives. Thanks for your comments. Carol

nightowl on 01/15/2014

We recently lost one of our dogs. Our family found comfort by the fact that we had her cremated in a pet crematory and were able to keep her remains with us. It seemed so much more dignified than surrendering the body of our beloved pet to a "disposal service". I realize this solution may not be appropriate for everyone, but for us it was perfect and helped especially the children cope with the loss more easily.

CJRose on 01/15/2014

Hi WriterArtist Thanks for contributing to the discussion. Carol

WriterArtist on 01/11/2014

It is never easy, to get over with a pet loss is difficult. I totally understand the sadness and the lonely feeling.

CJRose on 01/05/2014

Sorry about your kitten. Losing a pet is never easy. I have learned to accept Regi isn't here and remember the good times. Thank you for commenting

ologsinquito on 01/04/2014

We also had to have a kitten put to sleep because he contracted a horrible virus. It was excruciating. Sorry to hear about your loss.

CJRose on 12/18/2013

Hi Abby

I'm sorry about what happened to your cat. It must have be very difficult to lose your pets in such traumatic circumstances. I think that people say that about pets, have never really had a pet they really loved. Thanks for your nice comments about the article.


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