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The Road Ahead: Dealing with the Loss of a Pet

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
(Anatole France)

Most pets have a much shorter lifespan than people do. It's one thing we know, and are forced to accept, when we welcome them into our lives. And yet is never easy, no matter how many times we go through it.

Each of us grieves in our own unique way. There is no right amount of time we should grieve, nor there is there a right way to grieve. Some of us will want to have another pet at our sides to help us through the grieving process; others won't want to even think about getting another pet for some time.

Sometimes people who haven't had pets will not understand. They may make well-meaning remarks, such as 'Oh, you can always get another cat / dog / pet'. Many people who have lost their pets find great comfort in connecting with others who have also suffered the loss of a beloved pet. Search online for pet loss support groups or seek out a good friend; they can be a big help through the difficult times ahead.

If you're the type of person who prefers to have solitude while you go through the initial grieving period, then consider making this known to family and friends. People naturally want to reach out and make sure their loved ones are okay. Speak up if you find this overwhelming, and ask for some time to be alone.

Even pets who have been with us for a short time can have a tremendous impact on our lives. Sometimes an accident, illness, or simply old age can take our pets from us far too soon. The length of time we spend with them doesn't diminish how we feel about them.

"Friendship isn't about whom you have known the longest...
it's about who came and never left your side."

Some of the things people have found helpful when grieving include:

  • Making a photobook or scrapbook of memories;
  • Creating a tribute video;
  • Planting a tree in the pet's honor;
  • Making a donation to an animal shelter in the pet's honor;
  • Reading pet loss poems or pet quotes;
  • Scattering the pet's ashes in one or more of his favorite places.

Dealing with the loss of a pet is heartbreaking, no matter how well you may have 'prepared' for it. Time is a great healer. Eventually, the sharp sting of loss will fade, and we can instead celebrate our pet's life and the part they played in ours.

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
(A.A. Milne)