Pet owners out there will agree that a dog is not ‘just a dog’, he is man’s best friend. Our dogs are loyal, affectionate and most of all a member of the family. With such an intense bond between the relationship, when it comes to losing our pet, it is understandable to feel heartbroken and devastated.
Grief can take its course differently with everyone and given the age, relationship, cause of death grief can impact in various ways too. Following are some helpful ways to cope with bereavement and common questions that are often asked at this difficult time. We as humans can experience different grief processes compared to other people. Our grief can make us feel sadness, confusion, loss, denial,anger and depression. We will then start to question ourselves on the care we give, ‘if only I knew he was ill’ which makes our grieving harder to resolve.
The most important thing to do at this time is to be honest about your feelings. You have every reason to grieve for a pet and let no one tell you that you shouldn’t be crying ‘over a dog’. You have had your family member in your family for so many precious years and created a very special bond between you both. With coming to terms with your loss and knowing what you are experiencing, only then will you be able to recognize your feelings and start to overcome them through the grief process.
It always good to talk about your feelings, talking with family or friends that have pets, will certainly start to make you feel better and help you to look at the memories that you and your dog have made together. If you don’t have family or friends to turn to, social media such as facebook dog page(s) can also be a great place to turn to. There are many pet lovers on those type of pages that most have experienced what you are going through and can offer their support and guidance through this difficult time.
Many people worry about what to tell their children as they also are a big part of your pet’s lives and have grown up with them being there. You are the best person to know how to handle such delicate information to your own children. You must remember that if you say ‘he has been put to sleep’ that you explain the difference between normal sleep and having to be put to sleep.
Many people have written stories about their pet going over ‘rainbow bridge’ to a happier place where they can play all day. This is a great strategy that helps both children and parents cope and getting the children to draw pictures of the pet at rainbow bridge will help them to picture them there.
Other coping strategies that have helped pet lovers deal with their grief are:
- Writing a letter to their pet expressing their love and memories they have shared with them over the years.
- Writing poems or stories based on their pet to express their feelings.
- Creating photo collages and scrap books to remember all the best memories, you have shared together.
- Creating a memorial for your dog, pictures, candles, their toys or blankets and a memorial stone will give you a place to go to cry, scream, talk and all the other emotions to help you cope.
Common Questions and Answers
When is the right time to put my pet to sleep?
You vet will be able to tell you about your pet’s current physical condition but you are the best person to know about their daily life. Is he in constant pain? Has he stopped eating? Unaware of his surroundings? Then it may be more kind and loving to help him pass over to relieve him of his pain.
Should I be there when my pet gets put to sleep?
This is totally up to you. With you there, you can accept peace that your pet has passed over and is no longer in any pain or discomfort. However you must remember that watching your pet go to sleep is heartbreaking and some will find this incredibly hard. You will need to ask yourself if you can handle being there.
What do I do next?
This question is in your hands. You have the option to bury your pet or to have the ashes back. You need to think about what will give you and your family the greatest comfort – burying him in the garden or spreading his ashes in his favourite park. Talk to your family if you can’t come to a decision and soon you will all agree on a perfect place to visit where you pet will now be.
How will my other pets cope?
It will be a confusing time when you come home and your loved pet does not come in with you. As you are grieving, you must remember to comfort your other pet as much as possible. They are confused and are not sure where he has gone so extra attention will be the best option. This will also help with your grieving process too. Remember if you do decide to introduce a new pet to the family that the existing pets may not welcome them at first. They have noticed a big change to the family and sso time will be needed for everyone to accept this change before a new pet is introduced.
Animals have a much better attitude to life and death than we do. They know when their time has come. We are the ones that suffer when they pass, but it’s a healing kind of grief that enables us to deal with other griefs that are not so easy to grab hold of. Emmylou Harris