How can you cope with the death of a beloved pet?

How can you cope with the death of a beloved pet? I wrote a newsletter column in April 2009 that deals with this situation. The column is as follows:

I’m writing this column with a heavy heart. On March 28th, my dog Teddy passed away. He was a very important part of our family. I’m sure that animal lovers that are reading this newsletter can relate to the feeling of loss and grief that my family feels.

It’s a particular shock that Teddy’s passing happened so suddenly. He was getting on in years, but he didn’t have serious health issues, he looked like a “young pup”, and had an abundance of energy until the end.

It’s true that we never know what’s going to happen from day-to-day. Grief for a human being, a beloved pet, a lost relationship, a job loss, or a loss in any other form can be devastating. Deeply feeling highly sensitive people may experience a longer lasting feeling of grief and loss. It’s important that we have a strategy to help us through these difficult times.

I would like to give you some of the strategies that are helping me and my family during this difficult time.

* Don’t minimize your loss. I’ve had pets all of my life. I know the pain of losing a beloved pet. A family pet represents a significant emotional investment in your life. Don’t ignore the importance of this loss or be embarrassed by it. Be patient with yourself and give yourself enough time to work through your feelings.

* Share your feelings and seek comfort from others. Talk about your feelings with your family and friends, especially those who are animal lovers. It’s okay to cry if you need to. Don’t be ashamed to seek professional help if you need it.

* Make the time to rest. Since emotional and physical energy can be easily depleted by grief, it’s extremely important to exercise self-care when coping with intense emotions. We have to take the time to re-charge our batteries by having enough alone time and getting our proper rest.

* Remember the good times. It was very helpful when my family and I looked at photos and videos of Teddy. It was very comforting to reminisce about the fun times.

* Have a proper ending. A proper ending for your pet is a very individualized thing. It’s important that you do what’s comfortable and appropriate for you. We decided on cremation. Teddy’s ashes are in a small wooden box in a glass bookcase in our family room. This was a fitting tribute to Teddy that my family was comfortable with.

Good bye Teddy, old buddy, old pal. Thanks for the wonderful memories and being our beloved family pet for the past fourteen years. We love you and miss you dearly!

How do you cope with the death of a beloved pet? I’m interested in any thoughts or comments that you have.

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