For many of us, the loss of a pet is the same as losing a close human family member. There is no correct way of displaying your feelings of loss – grief can be expressed in many different ways and the timeframe of the process can be different for everyone.
The response to grief is sometimes emotional and sometimes behavioral:
EMOTIONAL responses can include: denial, intense tearfulness, disorientation, insomnia, shock, irritability, loss of appetite, anger, guilt, isolation, depression, and rumination. These responses can last for days, weeks, or months. Some of us are emotional for a long time with every memory of our pet.
BEHAVIORAL responses can include: desire to sleep with our pet’s blanket, having difficulty removing his/her possessions/toys/bowls, a compulsion to memorialize your pet, and/or isolating ourselves.
It is very common to feel guilt if your pet was euthanized. Instead of remembering the loving memories we have of our pet, we often judge ourselves very harshly for the decision we made. In the case of guilt, we bring up regrets we may have had, such as… “I didn’t give my pet enough attention, I couldn’t afford the medical treatment, I could have done more for him/her.” You may feel your decision was premature or that you waited too long.
These ruminating thoughts are only distortions, and there is no logical basis for such condemnation or worthless self-torture. Know that life or death decisions, even when suffering is evident are not easily made. There’s no benefit in second guessing ruminations after the fact. Euthanasia is one of the most agonizing aspects of pet loss and can distract from your work of mourning. Let these thoughts go, and try to stay focused on the positive memories. The reality is that your compassionate courage on behalf of your beloved pet friend has mercifully ended their suffering. Extra time with your pet may have been at the expense of prolonged, painful suffering.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
1. Take good care of yourself. Do something special for yourself that makes you feel good.
2. Spend time with loved ones.
3. Try to eat healthy, get some exercise, and get appropriate sleep.
4. Join a Pet Loss Support Group.
5. Do some volunteer work or memorialize your pet by planting a tree in his honor.
6. Get a new pet. Getting a new pet is a personal decision. Some people feel it’s disrespectful to get another pet right away. While others need the soulful spirit of an animal around them all the time to feel balanced. It’s not disloyal to your departed pet to save the life of another soul at a shelter. Some think it’s a way to honor the lost pet even though we all agree that nothing and no other creature will ever take the place of the pet that was lost.