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We have had pets for over 30 years and know that the loss of a pet that you loved, and who loved you unquestionably, is very painful. Grief, sorrow and mourning are normal feelings after the loss of your best friend and family member. There may be some people around you that will say "what's the big deal? It's only a pet!" Some people think that pet loss doesn't hurt as much as human loss, or that it's not right to grieve for an animal. They may not understand because they don't have a pet of their own, or because they can't appreciate the love and companionship that a pet can provide. Don't argue with them about whether your grief is appropriate or not. Seek out others who have lost pets and can appreciate your grief.
Working thru Grief
Healing takes time and you can’t ignore your feelings. Everyone handles grief in their own way and whatever you feel is normal for you as they are your feelings. You need to allow yourself time to grieve and heal. Share your loss with friends and family and remember all of the good times you had with your pet. It also helps to stay active and keep yourself healthy. There are several books, articles and websites that contain helpful information to assist you in this area. See our links at the end of this article.
If there are children in the household the loss of their pet can be very traumatic. It is sometimes the first death that they have experienced. They can have a very close bond with the pet that was their playmate and was even like a sibling. Be sure to talk with them to let them know what is happening and that their pet and best friend will not be coming back. If it was a natural passing explain that animals do not live as long as humans. They need support at this time and assurance that they are not at fault in any way. We have included links at the end of this article that offer excellent advice on helping children thru this difficult time.
Get another Pet now?
While it may be a normal reaction to consider getting a replacement pet, most experts would say you should not do this. You, and the other members of your family, need to take the time to handle your grief at losing your best friend and family member. You can never ‘replace’ the one that you have lost as he or she was unique with a personality that was theirs alone. It may even be difficult at this time to bond with a new pet until some time has passed. When your grieving is over, and you want to get a new pet for the family, then look for that pet. A new pet should be just that, a new pet, and will have its own traits that you can learn to love. You will know when the time is right.
Honoring a Pet’s memory
There are several ways in which we can honor our devoted friend, companion and loving pet that has passed away. For some they may feel that a memorial service would be appropriate where family members gather to say their goodbyes. This is especially true when there are children involved.
If you decide that a burial is what you want there are two choices. In most communities there are pet cemeteries where you can purchase a plot for your pet. The sites are maintained by the facility and you can visit whenever you desire. The second choice is a private burial. This would be somewhere on your property, in a flower garden or other restful place of your choosing. However, in some municipalities there may be zoning restrictions that prohibit the private burial site. For either of these choices there are several pet monuments, or pet headstones, which you can choose to memorialize your pet’s resting place.
Many Pet owners chose cremation as it provides them several options. You may bury some of the ashes in a special place in your yard or scatter ashes in a place that was special for you and your best friend. Also if you place some, or all, of the ashes in a pet memorial urn you may take it with you if you move in the future. If you contact your veterinarian he or she will be able to put you in contact with a local crematorium that can take care of your needs.
Links and Resources
Pet Loss Grief Support, Rainbow Bridge & Candle Ceremony: A compassionate website for pet lovers who are grieving over the death of a pet, or an ill pet.
Animal Love and Loss Network: An organization of pet loss counselors and professionals…has links to support groups.
In Memory of Pets: has links, book references, sympathy cards and other pet loss information.
Chance’s Spot: Provides grief resources, information and games to help those who have lost a pet. Coping with Pet loss; Children and Pet Loss.
Angel Hearts: Great site with poems and is a place to post pictures of your pet for others to view.
Children and Pet Loss: A great article that gives guidance for helping children of all ages to deal with the loss of a pet.
Coping with Pet Loss: Grieving the death of a Dog or Cat
Helping Children Deal with the Loss of a Pet: A Veterinarian’s input on pet loss and children’s emotions.
Pet Loss Books
Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of your Pet, by Moria Allen
Pet Loss, A thoughtful guide for adults and children, by Herbert Nyberg, Ph.D.
Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates, by Gary Kurz
Waging Tails in Heaven, by Gary Kurz
Cat Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant, for ages 4-8 years
Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant, for ages 4-8 years
When Your Pet Dies, by Alan D. Wolfelt Ph.D.
Goodbye, Friend, by Gary Kowalski
ASPCA Pet Loss Hotline: (877) GRIEF-10
A Pet Loss Support program with help for the following issues:
Grief Recovery Hotline: (800) 445-4808 – M-F 9am to 5pm PT
C.A.R.E. Pet Loss Helpline: Confidential telephone service offered through the University of Illinois College of Veteinary Medicine for people who are either grieving the loss of a companion animal or are anticipating a loss. Information on the grief process, resources, and pet photo gallery.
Cornell University Pet Loss Support Hotline: Staffed by trained volunteer students from the College of Veterinary Medicine. Offers hotline hours, FAQ, and links to a variety of grief resources.
Pet Loss Hotline at Washington State University: It's okay to love and miss your pet.
Pet Cemeteries and Crematories: A list, State by State, of pet cemeteries and crematories.
International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories: Gives names and contact information for Pet cemeteries and Crematories.
Cats Directory Cats rule at I-Love-Cats.com. Get tons of free feline stuff - cat breed information, cat names, cat pictures, cat supplies and so much more.
Best Dog Sites - A human-edited Web directory for dog sites.