Sometimes referred to as our “fur-babies,” “grand-dogs,” or “4 legged children,” pets can have a very special and meaningful place in our lives. Some pets seem to instinctually know when we’re having a bad day, or when we need someone to comfort us, they come to our aid. Pets can brighten our days just by being present – for example, the warm welcome you receive when you come home to your dog or cat and he or she is happy to see you, even if you’ve only been gone a short while.
When a pet becomes ill and no longer has a good quality of life, sometimes the decision to euthanize the animal becomes imminent. Other times, our pets may pass due to a tragic incident or accident without warning. Regardless of how our pets may come to pass, the loss we experience following the death of our pet often goes understated. The death of a pet is a significant loss and needs to be acknowledged as such. Just as the loss of a beloved family member may impact our daily functioning, so too can the loss of a beloved pet.
Support networks are essential throughout any time of grief or loss, and the loss of a pet is no different. The problem is that society as a whole does not place much significance on the loss of a pet and may not provide the amount of support that an individual may need. Recently I had someone say they felt embarrassed for being so upset following their pet’s passing because “It was just a dog.” But its not just a dog – its your friend, your confidant, your exercise partner, your alarm clock, and your welcoming committee. Having experienced the loss of two pets this year, I can appreciate the encompassing grief following a pet’s untimely passing. All-in-all, your companion animals play an integral part in your day to day life and as such has become part of your family.
Regardless of the type of pet we lose, they leave a void in our hearts that cannot be filled by replacing our pet with another. Although others may not share in the depth of our feelings of loss, these feelings are still valid and need to be acknowledged. Sharing stories with loved ones about the memories you shared with your companion animal can have you reflect on the positive impact your pet had in your lives. In memory of your pet, you may want to have a memento made.
If you or someone you know has recently experienced the loss of a pet, you may find it helpful to reach out to others you know who have also experienced the loss of a pet. As difficult as it may be, taking care of yourself and maintaining your routine as best as possible may help to alleviate some of the strain you may be experiencing. You may want to reach out to your local veterinary clinic for potential support resources, and if your feelings of grief worsen or continue for a long period of time, talk to your family doctor or reach out to a counsellor for help.
Potential resources following the loss of a pet:
Pet Loss Support Group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Petloss
Pet Loss website: http://www.pet-loss.net/resources/Canada.shtml