Coping with the loss of your pet
Create a memorial after the loss of your pet
You might find that creating a memorial for your pet helps, like holding a small remembrance service in your garden or planting a tree or plant, either where your pet is buried, or in a favourite spot. This can also help children cope with the loss of a pet dog, as they watch the tree grow and blossom and remember their pet.
When coping with the loss of your dog, try to acknowledge and explain your pet’s death to children in age-appropriate terms, whilst avoiding confusing euphemisms or underplaying the gravity of the situation.
Most children appreciate honesty and will benefit in the long term from not being misled. Losing a dog can be a confusing time for children who are used to having their pet around them. In light of this, it’s always more constructive to avoid terms such as ‘gone away’ or ‘sleeping’, in case they build false expectations rather than accept the reality of having to saying goodbye.
Share your feelings
Don’t be shy about sharing your how you feel. Opening up to someone who has been through the same thing can be a great comfort after saying goodbye to your dog or cat. If you’d rather not talk to someone you know, The Society of Companion Animal Studies and the Blue Cross have created a Pet Bereavement Support Service.
Volunteers at the Pet Bereavement Support Service are there to counsel and listen to pet owners who have been bereaved. The volunteers, of all ages and backgrounds, have been through an intensive training programme to help people just like you. They take calls in their own home and will offer a listening ear, even if they can’t be there as a shoulder to cry on, to help you get through this hard time.
You can contact their helpline on freephone 0800 096 6606 every day between 8.30am and 8.30pm. Alternatively, you can email them at [email protected] or visit their website at www.scas.org.uk. Also on the website is a range of other resources to help give you all the support you need at this difficult time.
When to get a new pet
There’s no need to rush into getting a new pet after your loss. It is natural when you are coping with the loss of your dog to want to fill that ‘empty’ space, but it might not help. In fact, it’s a better idea to give yourself time to fully recover and obtain some closure. If you still feel the loss of your previous pet it could detract from what should be the start of a beautiful new relationship, a time when you and your new friend should be having fun getting to know one another. Dog bereavement will overshadow the happiness of meeting a new puppy, just as the loss of a cat makes it harder to immediately choose a new kitten.
Any new pet you bring home deserves a chance to develop their own personality and earn your love without living in the shadow of your previous pet, so when you do decide to get a new companion, avoid one that looks too similar. Ultimately, you must do what’s fair to both of them, and that means treating them with the respect they both deserve.
It’s perfectly normal to grieve and feel upset when coping with the loss of your dog. You have just had to say goodbye to a much loved member of your family. If you feel very depressed, you should talk to people who understand what you’re going through. Contact your GP and phone the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (1850 60 90 if you’re in the ROI), or visit them at www.samaritans.org
The most important thing to remember is that even though you’re going through a difficult time, things will get better – and you’ll be left with countless happy memories of the great times you shared with your pet.