At Karma Cat + Zen Dog, we believe (and know in our souls) that pets are a true part of your family. And, unfortunately, when a pet passes, it can be a difficult time to get through, for yourself, your human family members, and your furry family members.
In today’s blog, we discuss tips to help yourself (and your fellow humans) grieve a pet, ways to help your other pets cope with the loss, and some quotes to guide you through that journey. We hope this information is helpful.
How to Help Yourself (and Other Humans)
First and foremost, be sure to go easy on yourself during the process of letting go of a pet. Saying goodbye is a journey, not a destination, and all of your feelings are valid. While you give yourself some time to cope, there are some great pointers from HelpGuide.org:
“Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to ‘move on’ or ‘get over it.’ Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment. It’s okay to be angry, to cry or not to cry. It’s also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you’re ready.
Reach out to others who have lost pets. Check out online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and pet loss support groups. If your own friends and family members are not sympathetic about pet loss, find someone who is. Often, another person who has also experienced the loss of a beloved pet may better understand what you’re going through.
Rituals can help healing. A funeral can help you and your family members openly express your feelings. Ignore people who think it’s inappropriate to hold a funeral for a pet, and do what feels right for you.
Create a legacy. Preparing a memorial, planting a tree in memory of your pet, compiling a photo album or scrapbook, or otherwise sharing the memories you enjoyed with your pet, can create a legacy to celebrate the life of your animal companion. Remembering the fun and love you shared with your pet can help you to eventually move on.
Look after yourself. The stress of losing a pet can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time. Spend time face to face with people who care about you, eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to release endorphins and help boost your mood.
If you have other pets, try to maintain your normal routine. Surviving pets can also experience loss when a pet dies, or they may become distressed by your sorrow. Maintaining their daily routines, or even increasing exercise and play times, will not only benefit the surviving pets but can also help to elevate your mood and outlook, too.
Seek professional help if you need it. If your grief is persistent and interferes with your ability to function, your doctor or a mental health professional can evaluate you for depression.”
How to Help Your Other Pets
Many times, your human family members aren’t the only ones grieving: your other pets are, too. Depending on your pet’s temperament and how close they were with the pet that you lost, a variety of symptoms of grieving may be present. Some common signs of your pet grieving, according to a recent study, are:
- Being more demanding of attention
- Being clingy or needy
- Seeking less affection from owners
- Seeking out the deceased’s favorite spot
- Increased duration of sleep
- Decreased amount of food eaten
- Slower eating
- Increased frequency of vocalizations
- Increased volume of vocalizations
So, how can you comfort your pet and help them cope with this loss? It’s quite simple: be there for them. If they are asking for more attention, give it to them. If they are pulling away and spending more time by themselves, give them that, too. If you’re concerned about your pet pulling away a little too much, try bringing out their favorite toy or treat, and see if that sparks some interest for them. But remember, if they aren’t interested, that’s OK, too. And if you have additional concerns, reach out to your vet.
When will your pet feel better? You guessed it: there is no timeline. But according to the aforementioned study, “For a typical pet, grieving behaviors lasted for less than six months, but this is still longer than many owners might suspect. In general, pets who are making their way through their grief in a healthy manner improve gradually as time goes on. The cat who didn’t want to play at all one week will bat around the catnip mouse for a few minutes the next, or the dog who would only eat treats for a few days starts nibbling at his regular food again.”
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” – Vicki Harrison
“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” – Saint Francis of Assisi
“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” – Jack Lemmon
“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” – Hilary Stanton Zunin
Karma Cat + Zen Dog is here for you for all things pet-related. Feel free to browse our other resources, and remember, do not hesitate to reach for help for you or your other family members if you need some help coping with a loss. You are not alone!