Advice for recovering after the death of a pet – Part 1

From the large and exotic to the tiny and common, we chose our pets, care for them, and inevitably they become an extension of ourselves. So when a pet dies we feel that we’ve lost a piece of ourselves. Grieving is painful both physically and emotionally, but the most important thing to understand is that over time grief will diminish as long as you allow yourself to mourn.

Here are some suggestions to help you or a loved one through the mourning process:

Talk To Your Veterinarian

Veterinarians are trained to help you through the initial pain and shock of losing your pet. Weather you have questions or just need reassurance know that your relationship with your veterinarian doesn’t end the moment your pet passes. Take your time to talk, listen and accept what has happened before you leave the hospital.

Veterinarians understanding the special needs of pet owners who are experiencing loss are beginning to organize bereavement groups. Larger veterinarian hospitals are the most likely source of such groups in your area. These groups are open to everyone even if your pet was not a patient.

Have A Memorial Service

If possible bring your pet home for burial or a funeral before cremation. Knowing that you’ve done something extra for a pet after life is of great comfort. Children also benefit from arranging a funeral. They can make cards, place your pet’s favorite toys and foods inside the coffin and even take last pictures. Many children have said it made them feel good that they could say goodbye in this way instead of leaving their pets at the hospital.

For larger pets, or if you can’t take your pet home you can obtain keepsakes like pet tags, horseshoes, or fur. Don’t be afraid to ask for these if they are not offered. Some veterinarians are giving pet owners polymer clay disks with their pets’ paw or hoof prints embedded in clay. You can ask if this is an option, if it’s not you can bring your own materials and ask them about obtaining a print.

Don’t Hide Your Grief

Many pet owners find that it’s difficult to express their grief because sometimes co-workers or friends don’t understand the bond that they shared with their pet. This can be especially true with the loss of a small pet or a reptile. However, the best thing anyone mourning a loss can do is talk about it. You don’t have to go into detail; just let people know that you just lost your pet and it hurts. Think of speaking about your pet as a way to honor the memory of the love you shared.

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