As someone who has lost dozens of pets over the years, it still infuriates me the way pet loss is regarded, even though I can only really speak from a British perspective.
The loss of an animal is not really regarded as a major trauma, though attitudes may be gradually changing. For me, personally, it’s reached the stage where I’m more inclined to keep the distress of losing a pet to myself, apart from telling a handful of people, such is the often indifferent or apathetic response. But saying nothing, because you’re scared of saying anything, isn’t being a great friend. Ignorance isn’t bliss, but at least you can find out who your friends are.
Everyone has a subtly different reaction to grief. Sadness, of course, but grief can be immediate or more gradual. It’s important not to bottle up your emotions, even if you feel you can only let go in private. It’s also a good idea to talk about your loss to someone sympathetic. A few kind words do make a difference. If someone has suffered loss – person or animal, then I make a point of reacting to that, and not wimping out by saying nothing. It’s nothing to boast about, it’s just common, human decency.
Keeping busy is one very important way of helping oneself through grief. You should give yourself time to remember, too. Sometimes you will be frustrated because you can’t remember certain things about your pet. But this is normal, because you are trying too hard. Many people may also feel guilt, but this is normal, too. Fretting about not doing enough is really proving our love.
Luckily, we live in an age where it’s easy to have many images of our pets through digital photos and videos. It can be therapeutic to go through the happy memories. The definition of bitter sweet if you like. You can also put up an online memorial to a beloved pet at sites like Rainbows Bridge [www.rainbowbridge.com/].
The loss of a family pet can help a family become stronger. The mutual feeling of loss should be a common bond. Helping each other through a sad time will also help each member of the family – both when giving and receiving love and support.
There should be no set time period as to when you will feel better. Allow yourself to grieve naturally, without bowing down to what other people may say.
Finally, pat yourself on the back for giving your pet a wonderful life. So many animals have a life of misery. You can be thankful for having them, but they would have felt thankful for having you.