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AnimalSites.com Articles

Coping with the death of your pet

by:
AMANDEEP KAUR MAUJ

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Coping with the death of your pet



When a person you love dies, it's natural to feel sorrow, express
grief, and
expect friends and family to provide understanding and comfort.
Unfortunately,
the same doesn't always hold true if the one who died was your
companion
animal. Many consider grieving inappropriate for someone who has lost
"just a
pet."

Nothing could be further from the truth. People love their pets and
consider
them members of their family. Caregivers celebrate their pets'
birthdays,
confide in their animals, and carry pictures of them in their wallets.
So when
your beloved pet dies, it's not unusual to feel overwhelmed by the
intensity of
your sorrow.

Animals provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support, and
unconditional
love during the time they share with you. If you understand and accept
this
bond between humans and animals, you've already taken the first step
toward
coping with pet loss: knowing that it is okay to grieve when your pet
dies.



The grief process is as individual as the person, lasting days for one
person or
years for another. The process typically begins with denial, which
offers
protection until individuals can realize their loss. Some caregivers
may try
bargaining with a higher power, themselves, or even their pet to
restore life.
Some feel anger, which may be directed at anyone involved with the pet,
including family, friends, and veterinarians. Caregivers may also feel
guilt
about what they did or did not do, and may feel that it is
inappropriate to be
so upset. After these feelings subside, caregivers may experience true
sadness
or grief. They may become withdrawn or depressed. Acceptance occurs
when they
accept the reality of their loss and remember their animal companion
with
decreasing sadness. Remember, not everyone follows these classic stages
of
grief—some may skip or repeat a stage, or experience the stages in a
different
order.

Coping with grief:

Acknowledge your grief and give yourself permission to express it.

Don't hesitate to reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear.

Write about your feelings, either in a journal or a poem.

Explore the Internet for pet loss support groups and coping
information.

Prepare a memorial for your pet.

Dealing with children and seniors : The loss of a pet may be a child's
first
experience with death. The child may blame himself, his parents, or the
veterinarian for not saving the pet. And he may feel guilty, depressed,
and
frightened that others he loves may be taken from him. Trying to
protect your
child by saying the pet ran away could cause your child to expect the
pet's
return and feel betrayed after discovering the truth. Expressing your
own grief
may reassure your child that sadness is okay and help him work through
his
feelings.

Coping with the loss of a pet can be particularly hard for seniors.
Those who
live alone may feel a loss of purpose and an immense emptiness. The
pet's death
may also trigger painful memories of other losses and remind caregivers
of their
own mortality. What's more, the decision to get another pet is
complicated by
the possibility that the pet may outlive the caregiver, and hinges on
the
person's physical and financial ability to care for a new pet.

For all these reasons, it's critical that senior pet owners take
immediate steps
to cope with their loss and regain a sense of purpose. If you are a
senior, try
interacting with friends and family.


Please do not rush into the decision of buying a new pet. It isn't fair
to you
or your new pet. Each animal has his own unique personality and a new
animal
cannot replace the one you lost. You'll know when the time is right to
adopt a
new pet after giving yourself time to grieve, carefully considering the
responsibilities of pet ownership, and paying close attention to your
feelings.


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