This post is written by guest author, Britt Kascjak, from Shed Happens.
Our pets are our best friends, travel companions, sounding boards, and cuddle buddies. They are not only a part of the family, but they are also our best friends, so it’s no surprise that the hardest part of being a pet parent is the moment that you have to say goodbye.
While I wish that I could give you a magical solution to loss and grieving, it doesn’t exist. However, there are things that you can do to make your self-care a top priority and help yourself to heal and cope with the loss of a pet.
In our society, the loss of a friend or family member is often met with offers of comfort and sympathy by those around us. We are not only allowed to express our emotions, but we are also encouraged to take the time necessary to grieve our loss. Unfortunately, many pet parents will tell you that the same isn’t true when that loss is a beloved pet.
For those that haven’t felt the joy and love that comes from bringing a pet into your life, the depth of our grief is difficult to understand. This difference can make it difficult for pet parents to understand how to navigate this difficult time, lacking the support that often comes at other times of loss.
Research has shown that the loss of a pet can be just as intense as the emotions that follow the loss of a significant person in our life. This is why we need to come together as a pet community and support one another!
With the purpose of offering support and understanding as well as honoring those that we have lost, author and blogger Deb Barnes founded Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day on August 28th.
This is a day where pet parents are encouraged to reflect on the happy memories that they share with the pets that have now ‘gone to the rainbow bridge’. On this day, social media turns into a safe place for pet parents to share their stories, comforting and supporting one another. It’s incredible to see the pet community come together.
If you have recently experienced the loss of a pet, our hearts go out to you. The following suggestions won’t take your pain away, but they can make it a little easier to get through each day.
5 Ways to Cope with the Loss of a Pet
1. Be Patient with Yourself
There are many changes that you are going to be experiencing in the early days after saying goodbye to your beloved pet, each of which will be a reminder of your loss. This can make it difficult to go about your regular daily routine. Even something as small as making your coffee and looking to your side to see a food dish can leave you with a wave of difficult emotions. If all you can do in the beginning is get through the day, that’s okay.
2. Reach Out for Help and Support
When you are dealing with a difficult time like this, the support of your loved ones can make a world of difference. Your friends and family want to be there to comfort you, but they may not know how to help. Don’t be afraid to reach out and let them know what you need, even if it’s just a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear or having someone there when you’re feeling lonely. You may feel more comfortable reaching out to friends and family that are also pet lovers as they are more likely to understand the emotions that you are experiencing at this time.
3. Join a Support Group
One of the great benefits of the internet is that it provides us with an opportunity to connect with people regardless of distance. This means that a support group no longer requires finding something local. Instead, many websites are now offering forums where we can connect with people digitally.
You may find that you jump right into messaging with others and sharing your struggles, or that you prefer sitting back and reading through the posts that others are making. Just knowing that you are not alone can provide you with a great deal of comfort. The best part about these online support groups is that there is absolutely no pressure, you are free to share (or not share) at your own pace.
Here are a few online support groups that you may want to check out:
4. Honor Your Pet’s Memory
Your pet is an important part of your life and always will be. One way to acknowledge this is to do something to honor your pet’s memory. When it comes to honoring your pet, there is no right way or wrong way to go about it. The key is to find something that feels right to you. Some pet parents feel better having their pet close through cremation, placing their urn in a place of honor in their home or even having their ashes made into a piece of jewelry so that you can have them with you wherever you go.
Some other popular ways to honor your pet include creating a shadow box with some of their favorite items (like their collar or favorite toy), putting together a photo album or photo book, planting a memorial tree, placing a custom memorial stone in your garden, or getting a personalized tattoo that reflects your pet in some way.
5. Create New Routines
If you always took your dog for a walk at the same time every day, this time of day could become a trigger for you emotionally, a hard reminder. In the beginning, you may want to take this time just to sit with your emotions, which is a healthy step in working through your grief.
When the time comes that you feel ready to take a step forward, consider adding a new routine at this specific point in your day. Consider trying a new hobby, joining a fitness class, or volunteering for a cause that speaks to you (like your local shelter or rescue organization).
Whatever you decide, remember that this is no right or wrong way to grieve. There also isn’t a timeline that you need to stick to. As you work through your emotions, trust your heart to tell you when you are ready to take each step. It’s not a race.
Do you have a pet that has gone to the rainbow bridge? If so, we invite you to share your tips for coping during this hard time in the comments to help others in the pet community.
About the Author: Britt is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her ‘pack’ which includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.