Sadly, you’re probably reading this because you’re mourning the loss of a pet. Whether it’s a recent loss or one that still lingers, you have the right to mourn.
First, I’d like to begin by saying…
I know it hurts. I too, have had to say goodbye to furbabies. No matter how long these sweet creatures were in your life, the cut is just as deep.
My grandmother said the most eyeopening thing to me about my cats, “Cherish your pets because we only get a short time with them.”
I felt that. From an empathetic woman whose loved and lost many cats in her lifetime, she knows better than anyone how precious our time is with our pets.
Cherish your pets because we only get a short time with them.
Pets enhance our lives. Even if I tried, I couldn’t possibly count the times in my life when the only love I felt was from my pets. This loss can be a very significant time in our lives and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Mourning the loss of a pet: why it’s a different kind of pain
Why does losing a pet hurt so bad? From my own personal experience, mourning the loss of a pet just feels… different.
And, I think I know why.
1. People aren’t as sympathetic.
There's something about pet loss that people don't take seriously. Jobs don't recognize pet loss as “death in the family”. People don't check on you a week after your pet dies, as they would with a human loss. Some people may just tell you to get over it.
2. You can’t explain what’s going on to your pets.
The hardest part of losing a pet may even be the time leading up to the loss. Sometimes pets develop diseases or just old age and we have two choices: allow them to pass on their own time pr put them to sleep.
Either decision is absolutely heartbreaking. The worst part is that we can't exactly explain to them what's going on. We can only love them and comfort them in those last moments.
3. You don’t know how they feel (or felt).
As with the sudden loss of a person, we don't know how our pet felt before their death. Were they happy? Did I love them enough? Were they suffering?
All of these unknowns makes mourning the loss of a pet even more difficult.
4. Pets love you unconditionally.
Losing a pet can be very much like losing a parent. Pets truly love you unconditionally. They accept you for who you are; even the embarrassing and shameful parts of you.
No matter what happens, your pet is there for you… until they aren't. It can feel very much like a piece of you is missing.
5. Your routine will be different.
Suddenly, your pet is no longer with you. Now, everything is different. You may find yourself longing to walk your dog or wishing your cat would meow at 2am… just one more time.
Losing a pet is hard because whether we realize it or not, our routine truly revolves around them.
6. If you have other pets: you have to worry about their emotional well-being.
Additionally, you can't explain the loss to your other pets. Did you know that pets grieve? How can we comfort them without words? Check out this article: How a pet's loss affect your other pets.
7. You have to break the pet parent habits.
Have you ever been on vacation and reached your hand down to give your dog your leftovers? Or maybe, you lay down and call the cats to lay with you. Those are just a couple of the pet parent habits you have to break.
It is not easy and only adds to the pet loss grief.
8. You feel guilty or unsure about getting a new pet.
If you're a pet lover, it's very likely that you'll consider getting a new pet at some point. This will not be an easy decision. You'll feel extreme guilt and a very unsure feeling.
I want to tell you that it's okay to love another animal. This would be a lovely time to rescue a pet to give them the life they deserve to have.
Just be sure to really take some time to connect with an animal before jumping in. You'll know when it's the right pet because you'll get all those warm and fuzzy feelings.
One final message to the family mourning the death of a pet…
If you’re grieving the loss of a pet, don’t feel embarrassed about it. Naturally, we are connected with our pets. They feel like family because they are family.
So, take your time. Don’t rush into adding a new pet to the family and if or when you do – don’t feel like you’re replacing them. It’s okay to love another pet, just as it’s okay to love after the loss of a friend or relative.
As my gramma said, allow yourself to grieve and cherish the short time we have with our pets.
If you need resources for telling your children about the loss of a pet, I recommend this site: Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement