Paw Prints: Grieving the death of a pet | Valley Life

Most people love their pets enough to consider them members of the family. Pets provide companionship, emotional support and unconditional love. When a beloved pet dies, it’s natural to feel sorrow and experience grief. The grieving process usually begins with denial and can last from days to years. Some pet parents feel anger at their loss and that anger can be directed at anyone involved with the pet, including the family or veterinarian. They may also feel guilty about what they think they should or should not have done. Others may feel it is inappropriate to feel upset at all. Once these feelings subsid, true sadness or grief may set in.

Grief is personal and various forms of support are available. Internet or local pet bereavement groups and counseling services, books, videos, magazine articles and pet-loss support hotlines can offer help. The Delta Society can provide a list of pet loss hotlines. Reach out to family or friends who can provide support.

For children, the death of a pet may be the first experience with death. A child may blame himself, his parents or the veterinarian for not saving the pet. A child may also feel guilty, depressed and frightened that others he loves may be taken from him. Don’t try to protect your child by saying the pet ran away. He will always be looking for the pet and if he discovers the truth, he will most likely feel betrayed. Expressing your grief will let your child know that it’s OK to grieve the pet and it may also help him to work through his feelings.

The loss of a pet may be especially difficult for seniors. Those who live alone may experience a loss of purpose and emptiness. The decision to get another pet is complicated by the possibility that the new pet may outlive the pet owner. It’s important for senior pet owners to cope with the loss of their pet and regain a sense of purpose. Interacting with friends or family, calling a hotline or volunteering at a local humane society can help.

Surviving pets may whimper or refuse to eat or drink, and suffer lethargy. Even if they weren’t the best of friends, they may feel distress. Give surviving pets lots of love and try to maintain a normal routine. If necessary, call your veterinarian.

You’ll know when the time is right to adopt a new pet after giving yourself enough time to grieve. Each animal has its own unique personality and a new pet cannot replace the one you lost. When ready, remember the local animal shelter is a great place to find your new best friend.

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