Pet Loss and Grief
Grief is different for everyone; men grieve differently than women, kids grieve differently than adults, even pets can grieve. There is no right or wrong way or even a time period. For some people, you may have spent many months coming to terms with your pet’s illness and eventual passing and that grief manifested then. A sudden passing may take weeks or months to work your way through. Do NOT let other people tell you how to grieve. Though they may see it as “just a dog”, your pet was your companion and friend for many years. The unconditional love your pet gave you deserves to be memorialized the way you choose.
Grief manifests in different ways for everyone. Some may experience all of these through the healing process, and some only one or two.
- Physical grief: expressions of emotion that manifest physically by crying, shortness of breath, stomach ache, exhaustion, and more
- Intellectual grief: feelings of denial, confusion, inability to concentrate, visions or sensations of your loved one, the need to talk about your pet
- Emotional grief: sadness, anger guilt, feelings of hopelessness, nervous smiling and laughing at inappropriate times
- Social grief: changes in behavior in your daily life by either rejecting relationships or depending on relationships, needing to distract yourself by constantly busy
- Spiritual grief: turning to religion in either anger or renewed faith, visions or dreams, needing closure, memorializing
Memorializing Your Pet
Everyone chooses to remember their pet differently. If you would like, we will have your pet cremated and you can choose whether or not to have the ashes returned to you.
If you do choose to have they returned, they will come in a standard tin box. We have many urn choices from most of which can be personalized. Some people prefer to scatter their pet’s ashes in one of their favorite spots.
We will also make you a clay paw impression. We will leave this unbaked for you in case you would like to personalize it at home. We also offer custom paw decorating through Peartree Impressions. They can match your pet’s colors and markings or you may choose from their selection of standard colors.
Other ideas include a memorial service for your pet, a shadow box with their favorite toys and memories, or a journal dedicated to their life. Many people are content with their happy memories and pictures they have taken throughout the years.
Children and Pet Death
Helping your child understand the death of a pet can seem difficult, but the most important point is to be as honest and direct as possible. Use of the terms “put to sleep” or “went to live on a farm” can be confusing and often damaging to children. Use “Sammy has died” or “We love Sammy and don’t want her to suffer, we are going to help her die so she doesn’t feel sad anymore” will help your child understand the difference between death and sleep. They may feel guilt or rejection if they do not understand where their pet went.
Children often believe that everything that happens in their lives is because or for them. Including your child in the process of euthanasia will help them understand that they did not cause the illness or death. Although some children do not wish to be present for the procedure, try to have them help their pet before and have them say goodbye afterwards. Do not force this on them if they don’t wish, but it can give you an opportunity to explain to them what is going on.
It’s important to talk to your children about the idea of death and answer all their questions, despite how repetitive or morbid they may seem. Answer them honestly, without being graphic as their perception of death may still be forming. They need help understanding that death is permanent and their pet will not come back one day.
Don’t forget to let your children see that you are grieving. By showing children your emotions you will help them understand that grieving is okay and that they are allowed to express their emotions as well. Children do not always grieve the same way as adults and you may see them telling stories or pretend play. Both of you may find it helpful to put on a pet memorial service, or even have a picture of your pet for your child’s room.
Many children may want to replace their pet immediately. This is a personal decision that your entire family needs to make. You may find that you are ready right away, but for others it may take months. Help your children understand that they need time to remember their pet who has died and you do not need a “replacement” pet, instead you will take the time to find a new member of your family/best friend. When you are ready, let your children be involved in selecting a new pet. At this point they may ask more questions or relate additional memories about the pet that died.
If your child needs additional support, find a professional specializing in pet loss.
Resources for Pet Loss and Grief
- Grieving the Death of a Pet by Betty J. Carmack
- The Loss of a Pet by Wallace Sife
- Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet by Gary Kowalski
Books for Kids:
- Jasper’s Day by Marjorie Blain Parker
- Paw Pints in the Stars: A Farewell and Journal for a Beloved Pet by Warren Hanson
- Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant
- Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant