It is important to speak about grief when we lose a pet because many people do not know how to grieve in this way. It might be their first experience of loss. We can be in shock because we’ve lost a loved one, are feeling the emptiness and we don’t know what to do.
There is no right or wrong in how you feel and no time frame. Be present with your feelings and acknowledge that you are going through a difficult time and that it hurts.
What I write here is just suggestions and advice. You will only absorb this as you are ready. It is probably worth reading this again after a few weeks or months. Each time, you will recognise something new that might help you or give some comfort.
I want to acknowledge this grief. I know it is a difficult place to be in.
Our Pets Legacy
Our pets bring a very special presence into our lives. They share our home as companions, pet buddies and friends and are part of the family. They bring in fun, joy and innocence and are with us through difficult times as well as happy times. We create memories with them. They give us the gift of uncomplicated, unconditional love. We can open our hearts and emotions in ways that do not need words or long explanations. We can talk to them and tell them secrets from our heart and they still love us.
They are often the first one we meet when we walk in the door. Coming home means ‘welcome home’ when you have a pet. You’re never alone. We have routine in our life because of them and they can give purpose and meaning to what we do. They can grow up with us from a young age and our world is their world. I don’t believe we ‘own’ them. It is a relationship.
It can challenge our identity when they are gone and it’s natural to feel deep pain when we lose such a valued friend.
It’s a reality that living with pets also means accepting we will probably outlive them and have to say goodbye. This is where our heart feels the pain of loss. Grief is normal when you lose a pet but sometimes friends or family do not understand this. To them, it’s just an animal. Don’t be upset by their response. They don’t understand the bond or know the value of what you have lost. They lack this rich awareness that you have gained. They should however respect your right to feel grief. The pain is real.
Grief comes in waves and there is no timeframe for this. You may feel different emotions over time, sadness, grief, loneliness.
You will feel anger, shock and helplessness if a pet has been stolen or is missing. This is a very difficult situation and healing support is recommended.
Allow yourself time to feel any emotions you need to feel.
Other family members may not have the same bond with the pet and won’t grieve the loss in the same way. It is an individual process but it is as natural as grieving for a person.
Feeling Grief in Advance
It’s also possible to feel grief in advance if you know the animal is unwell or old and time is running out. You can feel helpless and upset as you face this reality. Recognising this and finding support is important.
Find the right people to talk to. Other animal lovers will understand and allow you time to talk and express your feelings. Don’t hide your emotions. People who know you well will understand your love for your pet.
If you have younger children, they need to know what has happened. If it is their first experience of death, they learn valuable skills about coping with loss.
Even adult children will feel the absence when they come home so talking and sharing memories is helpful.
Look after yourself with proper diet and rest. If your social contact was linked to your pet, you could connect with these people again. They will understand what this loss means to you.
You might need time to yourself and time to rest but don’t isolate yourself too much.
Later, you might decide to have another pet. This animal will have a different personality and will bring different qualities. There are lots of rescue animals hoping for a good, loving home and you can provide that for them. New and different bonds form. They are as important for the new animal as for you.
You have to make decisions about when to end things. Your vet’s advice will guide you when nothing else can be done. I’ve faced this many times and have learned to put my pet’s needs first to stop any suffering or lingering that can happen because I am not strong enough to let go. It’s never easy but has to be faced. It calls on our inner strength to let them go peacefully, with love.
You have to make decisions about burial or cremation, where and how.
Holding a ceremony gives a type of closure and honours the memory of the bond with your pet. I like to place a small toy between their paws and wrap them in one of their blankets. You might like to plant a tree or place a marker in memory.
Gather up food, bowls, toys, bedding, medication and deal with it. You might keep some items as memories or donate to an animal rescue if you have no other animals. It is part of the acceptance process.
Make a special card with the date of death and birth if known.
Keep a memory box or special photo. Create a dedication file on paper or computer.
Don’t share names or details of pets online if you have ever used these as passwords for accounts. Be cautious in this area while you cope with grief.
Other pets in the house might be upset as the mood has changed. There will be tension in the house when an animal is unwell. They sense this. Their routine and pet hierarchy is gone and they need to adjust. They can sense that you are upset and don’t know what to do. Keeping a routine is very important. Their behaviour might change and they begin searching for the lost pet or hiding away and being anxious. Forgive any mishaps as they adjust. They feel loss and sadness too and they still need you and a bit of extra attention.
Some things will remind you of your pet and catch you unawares. This can be upsetting.
Finding a hidden toy, seeing the walking lead or seeing an animal like the one you lost brings up the reality of loss.
People might ask you about the pet and you have to explain. While it is upsetting, it is also a stage in adjusting and accepting the loss.
You might sense their presence or energy in the house. I sometimes ‘see’ a shadow moving along and feel that one of mine has come to check-in on me for a moment.
Little things remind me of a pet. One loved to chew shoelaces. Another loved the smell of chocolate wrappers. Muffin cat, the ‘Butter Monster’ loved butter.
They Loved you Too
Remember that your pet loved you and would not want to see their human upset. If they are old or unwell, they sense that their time has come and accept it in a natural way. They follow the laws of nature that death follows life.
You might feel guilt at having to make the decision to say goodbye but it stops your pet’s suffering at the end.
Healing support helps you to cope, to honour your pet and to hold happy memories that bring a smile to your face. This is the higher form of love that emerges with healing.
The Rainbow Bridge – On Losing a Pet
There is a bridge connecting heaven and earth
It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of all its beautiful colours.
Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows, hills and valleys with lush green grass.
When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place.
There is always food and water and warm spring weather.
The old and frail animals are young again.
Those who are sick, hurt or in pain are made whole again.
There is only one thing missing.
They are not with their special person who loved then so much on earth.
So each day they run and play until the day comes
When one suddenly stops playing and looks up.
The nose twitches. The ears are up.
The eyes are staring and this one runs from the group.
You have been seen and when you and your special friend meet
You take him in your arms and hug him.
He licks and kisses your face again and again
And you look once more into the eyes of your best friend
and trusting pet.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together never again to be apart.
Author unknown. This poem is widely shared among pet lovers
How Divine Plan Healing supports you at this time
When grief is deep we don’t know how to balance our feelings. We need to eventually move to acceptance, holding good memories of the joy of sharing life with our pet. Life will move on.
This balance can happen more easily when you have a healing session.
It works at a deep level, bringing in high vibration light to heal your conscious experience. It helps to bring comfort and feel more at peace. It transforms all that we felt into a higher understanding of yourself, your bond with your pet and with life in general. It draws up your own inner wisdom so you can see this in a different way.
To book a healing session: https://marygallaghertherapy.ie/product/healing-grief-on-loss-of-pet/
If you have any questions, please contact me for a free information call to chat about options available: https://marygallaghertherapy.ie/contact/