When I was in high school, a family friend who lived not too far down the road was moving. When they bought their home, the previous family left behind an adorable orange and white tabby cat, and our friend took care of it, even though they were severly allergic. Because of their allergies, the cat mostly stayed outside.
They decided not to take the cat with them, and asked if we would be interested in taking him in. My parents had never wanted a pet, but this cat charmed his way into their hearts, so we brought him home.
Once he realized he could stay inside, he never wanted to leave. He would sit on any available lap, let you pet him for hours, and just loved being around people. He was the sweetest cat I had ever met.
Just a short of a couple of years later, he got cancer, and there wasn’t anything we could do to treat him. I remember being in the room with the Veterinarian, wiping the endless tears off my face as our dear cat laid there. My mom stood beside me, saying comforting words to the cat and I. You could tell the cat was ready. I will never forget that cat, as he brought us so much joy, even for just a few short years.
Fast forward to 2014, when my husband and I got our dog, Gant. As I sit here, watching him lay on the carpet, snoring away, I think about how much joy he has brought to our lives. On many occasions, my husband says “The dog has to live forever”. While it would be amazing to have him with us for the rest of our lives, I know that one day, we’ll be sending our dog to heaven.
Our dog, Gant.
In honor of our cat, I wanted to write about ways to help cope with the loss of a pet. They become more than just pets; they are family, and sometimes, it is just as difficult to lose an animal as it is a human being.
These tips are not based on any research, they are just ways I’ve found that are comforting, so take them as you will.
1. Take time to grieve. There is no “timeline” for how long you should mourne. Don’t let anyone tell you to “get over it” or “it’s just a dog (or insert pet here)”. I am still mourning my beloved cat and it’s been 16 years.
2. Don’t rush into getting another pet. Working at rescues, I have seen families who have just lost their pet and rushing to get a new one. While it’s great they’re looking to save another animal, sometimes it seems they’re trying to fill a void. You tend to start comparing that to your previous one, which is not fair to you or the pet. Take your time, heal, and wait until you are emotionally ready to bring another animal into your life.
3. Talk to other people who have lost a pet. Talking to others who have gone through the same experience of loss really helps. You can vent, ask them how they have grieved (or are grieving), and what they are doing to move while cherishing the memories.
4. Get a journal. All through high school, I would write in my journal everyday. I loved pouring my thoughts into something that was private and only mine. I probably went through 7 journals. Write a letter to your pet. Tell them how you’re feeling. It may sound silly, but they are listening.
5. Send a sympathy card (This one is for friends and family to do). Sending a card to someone who has lost their pet is a perfect way to send your sympathies and let them know you’re thinking of them. Here are some great options: Option 1 And Option 2
6. Get a touching tribute. Honor your favorite pet by getting a custom portrait, a cute necklace, or an inspirational quote. You’ll have something you can look at everyday and will hopefully help you rememer the good times you had with that pet. Here are some examples: Example 1 and Example 2.
7. Get involved. There are so many dog rescues who need your help. Use your talents to help with photography, design flyers, or spend an hour or two walking a dog. For me, this really heals my soul whenever I can help a dog get into their furever home. This also gives you an idea of what kind of dog you possibly would want for the future.
My foster Patsy, and I. She is now at a great home with friends of ours in Connecticut.
8. Take a walk. While it’s totally acceptable to sit on your couch, binge watch some Netflix, and shed some tears, make sure you get outside, absorb some fresh air, and enjoy your surroundings. I know whenver I’m feeling lost, I like to move around and reflect.
9. Surround yourself with loved ones. Invite a friend over to have dinner, or visit some family for a weekend. Being around your support system can help you start the healing process.
10. It is OK not to get another pet. Sometimes, I think people want to get another pet so they can fill a void. However, it is perfectly acceptable to cherish the wonderful pet you had in your life and keep the memories forever.
What are some of your methods for grieving the loss of a pet?