What can I expect emotionally?
It helps to know that everyone deals with grief differently. In addition to your sorrow and loss, which can be devastating in themselves, you may face anger, denial and/or depression. Depression and guilt are natural parts of the grieving process, but if unchecked, can leave you powerless to cope with your feelings.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are steps for managing grief and loss:
Give yourself permission to feel
Don’t suppress your feelings of grief. Recognize them and let them run their normal course. Your emotional health will be better for it.
Journal about positive memories
Putting your feelings down on paper can be a cathartic experience, and help you cope. Focus on the happy and fun times you and your pet shared, such as the day he or she first came home, or a trip to the beach or the park. Remember the good things.
Talk to someone
While grieving is an intensely private experience, it often helps to open up to another person. It may be hard to put your feelings into words, but having a compassionate listener will make it a little easier.
Understand grief affects everyone
Grief knows no boundaries — realize that everyone in your household or family, including children and senior citizens — are also trying to cope with the loss. Everyone grieves differently, so be patient with them, the same way you want they to be patient with you.
Prepare for recurring grief
Many things can trigger a wave of grief and sadness — your pet’s gotcha day, or birthday, holidays, even something you see or hear on TV. Recognize the triggers and know how to cope with them.
Additional support: Hotlines
The following are resources for grieving pet parents:
ASPCA Grief Counseling HotLine: 877-GRIEF-10 (877-474-3310)
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s free pet-loss hotline: 508-839-7966
University of Pennsylvania, Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital: 215-898-4556
Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine: 540-231-8038
Chicago Veterinary Medical Association Pet Loss Support Hotline: 630-325-1600
Utah State University Pet Loss Support Hotline: 435-757-4540 Mon-Thu from 5-7 pm MST; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Colorado State University, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Argus Institute Client Support Service: 970-297-1242
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine New York Pet Loss Support Hotline: 607-253-3932
Iams Pet Loss Support: 888-332-7738 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)
Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine Pet Loss Support Hotline: 517-432-2696
PetFriends From NJ: 856-234-4688. Outside of NJ: 800-404-PETS (7387)
Tufts University Pet Loss Support Hotline, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine: 508-839-7966
University of Tennessee, Institute of Agriculture, College of Veterinary Medicine
Veterinary Social Work Helpline: 865-755-8839
Washington State University, College of Veterinary Medicine Pet Loss Hotline: 866-266-8635
National Suicide Prevention Life Line: 800-273-8255