How to Grieve the Loss of a Family Pet
Pets truly are a core part of our families. They join our families and we immediately fall in love, and they hopefully get to spend the next decade or so enriching our lives and bringing an immense amount of joy on a daily basis.
Our pets can reduce stress and cortisol levels in their owners, improve our physical and mental health, and act as loving, devoted companions. Pet loss, as a result, almost unbearable.
When do we lose a family pet, we're often hyperaware of it immediately after. They were part of our daily routine, and they typically bring us so much happiness that a hole is left in our days when they've passed.
Many people try to move on quickly from the loss of a pet, trying to recover as fast as they can. Taking time to grieve the loss of the pet, however, can help everyone in the family heal.
Let's take a look at some of the best ways to grieve the loss of a family pet and honor their memory.
Don’t Undersell Your Own Pain
It's normal to see people try to brush off and undersell their own pain after losing a family pet. We might try to tell ourselves "he was only a dog, I shouldn't be so upset" or "they were fifteen, they had a great life." None of these things take away from the fact that you lost a treasured member of your family-- four-legged or not.
It's okay to need to take a day or two off of work, or to be so devastated you don't want to eat.
In many cases, losing a family pet may be the first loss children experience, too. Let them know that it's okay to be sad and that you are, too.
Don't undersell your own pain or rush the grief. It does get easier with time, but it's hard now, and that's okay.
Put the Pet at Rest As You See Fit
When you lose your pet, the vet or homecare service will typically offer several options for your pet's remains. This might include a respectful burial in a pet grave, cremation, or returning the pet's body to you so that you can bury them at home.
Some families prefer cremation, keeping the pet's ashes in a beautiful memorial urn, or they'll scatter the ashes outside in their pet's favorite or most peaceful place.
Whatever you choose, you can commemorate your pet's final resting place with beautiful and personalized memorial stones that honor the pet and their place in your life.
Put Up a Family Picture with the Pet
While nothing can immediately heal the hurt that you feel when you lose your beloved furball, something as small as putting up a family picture with the pet or a favorite picture of the pet can help a great deal.
Unless it's too painful right now (which it very well may be, and that's okay if it is-- everyone's loss and methods of coping are different), consider keeping up or putting up a picture of the pet somewhere that the family will see it. This can be on a hallway wall or on your photo shelf, or it can even be near your pet's ashes if they were cremated.
If you have a child who is struggling with the loss, giving them a framed picture of them with their pet can help. Just because the pet is gone doesn't mean they're forgotten.
Consider Keeping Something of the Pet’s
The process of removing some of the pet's items after they've passed can be excruciating. It can help to choose one or two items of the pets to hold on to.
After we lost our last puppy, we kept her collar and what we called her "chewing leash," which she'd diligently chewed up when she was teething. It was something that we would have never been able to throw away.
Some pets have a favorite stuffed animal that they cherish above all else, which is a great thing to hold on to. Keeping a collar, a name tag, or even a lock of fur are all great choices. Some euthanasia services can also provide a clay paw print from your pet.
Whether you keep this item with the pet's remains, in a small memorial box, or even stashed away in a drawer, it can provide a great amount of comfort to you and your family knowing it's there. Having a piece of them makes them feel close, and it's a great way to honor them.
Take Time to Adjust Your Routine
You often don't realize it until you've lost a furbaby, but our pets are a huge part of our daily routine. We might even wake up early to feed them, play with them, or walk them before work; we account for vet visits on the schedule and pet sitters for vacations.
It's natural that when pets cross over the rainbow bridge, they leave a hole in our routine and in our hearts.
Instead of playing ball for thirty minutes with the pup at night, your children feel an immense loss. You aren't waking up early to take your dog for a walk, and you have an extra twenty minutes in your morning that feel particularly empty.
Take time to mourn, and adjust as you can. Use that time in the morning to exercise for yourself, doing some yoga, or going for a run by yourself or with a neighbor. Engage your kids in a fun family activity, like game night or making a batch of homemade ice cream.
While nothing replaces the pet, adjusting to a new routine is an important part of healing. Doing so in a way that offers some enrichment where it was lost can be incredibly useful.
Losing a pet can be excruciating, even if you have a busy life and there are other pets in the home. Remember that it's okay to need time to heal from this because they were a constant and very loved companion in your family. Even though loving them was well worth the pain of losing them, losing them is still so hard.
Taking a few steps discussed in this post can help you start to heal from the grief of pet loss so that it isn't quite so consuming. And don't feel guilty doing this, because you know that above all else, your pet would always want you to be happy.
Looking for pet loss gifts or memorial items to help you honor and remember a beloved pet? We offer personalized items for pet loss grief, which you can see here.
Discover the 18 Ways to Support Someone Who is Grieving
Enter your email to sign up for the Comfort Company newsletter and get our ebook, 18 Ways to Support Someone Who is Grieving.