Pets are more than companions – they’re family. Pets provide us with unconditional love and support in a special and unique way. Grieving the passing of a pet can be confusing for a pet owner. Although pet lovers can relate to the heartbreak, grieving the loss of a pet can sometimes be a disenfranchised grief in today’s society. Comments like “it’s just a dog” or “just get another cat” can feel hurtful and isolating. We’re here to reaffirm that the grief you feel as the result of losing a pet is real – and deserves to be acknowledged.
We recognize National Grief Awareness Day on August 30. This day serves as a beneficial time to talk about the feeling of losing a pet and how processing our grief in meaningful ways can help us deal with overwhelming feelings. Below, we offer some meaningful tips to help you process the loss of your beloved pet.
Share your grief.
When we’re overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, it can be easy to isolate ourselves. But, talking with others about our grief can help us feel less alone. Try reaching out to a friend or family member who is an animal lover and can offer empathy and support. Or, try joining a pet loss support group with like-minded individuals who understand what you’re going through.
Another meaningful way to process grief is to host a ceremony for your pet. This can involve as many or as few details as you’d like, but the simple act of sharing the love you had for your pet with others can help ease overwhelming feelings and give you a chance to say goodbye. You can also incorporate special aspects of the ceremony that are unique to your pet, like hosting the ceremony in his or her favorite park. No matter how you choose to share your grief, remember that pet loss is a valid experience – you’re not alone.
Create a legacy.
Honoring our pet’s memory is an important part of the grieving process because it helps create something permanent to mark the important place they held in our lives. Try planting trees or flowers in your pet’s favorite spot as a reminder of the life they had with you. You can also try something fun, like naming a star after your pet or handing out tennis balls at your local park. Many artists also offer pet portraits, which can be incorporated into your home decor as a permanent reminder of your four-legged friend. Some pet owners choose to shadowbox frame their pet’s collar and hang it somewhere special.
You can also create a legacy for your pet with new traditions. On your pet’s birthday, acknowledge their life by volunteering at an animal shelter or making a donation in their name. You can even donate some of your pet’s old toys to shelter animals in need, as a way to continue the joy they had during their life.
Love on your other pets.
When you lose one pet, it can be difficult for your other pets, as well. Pets can experience grief just like humans, but they don’t have the ability to express it like we do. It’s important to pay attention to your other pets, as they may become less active or have a decreased appetite. Owners can help their grieving pets by giving them increased love and attention. Finding activities to share together, such as nature walks and new parks, can help both you and your other pets process the grief you all are feeling.
Remember, it’s completely normal for you and your pet to experience feelings of sadness and grief during this time. You’re not alone, and your feelings are completely valid. Pet loss is hard, but there are meaningful ways to process your grief and honor your pet’s memory with a new legacy. To learn more about memorial donations, visit this link.