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.
How to Cope with Pet Bereavement
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.
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.
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.
|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.