How to Grieve a Pet
Our pets give us so much love and joy, but sadly, their lives are so much shorter than ours.
We can try to push the thought away, but there will come a day when your pet will snuggle in for one last heart-breaking hug.
It’s never easy to say goodbye. For many people, the passing of a pet is like the loss of a family member.
The relationship between human and pet is complex and intertwined. We help our pet survive, and in turn, pets help improve our mental health and general wellbeing. Your pet may have seen you through years of change and hardship. They were the one you came home to.
And when a pet’s health declines, it is their human who is faced with a terrible life-or-death decision. It is an upsetting responsibility, made worse because you can’t ask your pet what they want.
The death of a pet is devastating. Over half of Australian households have a pet in the family, so millions of us have, or will, experience pet grief.
We don’t have common, defined traditions, like funerals, for when pets die. So when the time comes, it can be an overwhelming and even confusing event to process.
Everyone grieves differently, so here are a few suggestions on how to deal with the passing of a beloved pet. We hope you find something that works for you.
- There is no timetable for mourning. Allow the grief to unfold at your own pace and don’t let others judge you for your grief.
- Take care of yourself and look after your physical and emotional needs. Meet up with people who care about you and understand how terrible it is to lose a pet. Try to eat healthy food, rest well, and exercise.
- Keep in mind that the people who can appreciate the magnitude of your loss may not be in your usual circle of family and friends. Others who have lost pets may understand you better, and may have other helpful suggestions for getting through the grieving process.
- If you have other pets, try to keep up routines as normal. Pets can pick up on stress and low mood, which may stress them out in turn.
- Seek professional help. If it is all too hard to cope with, a doctor or mental health professional can help you work through your pain.
- Take photos during your pet’s last days.
- Honour your pet’s memory by framing or displaying their tag, collar or imprint of their paw. A paw print is also meaningful.
- Have your pet cremated and put the ashes where the pet was happy or had wonderful times.
- You could gain closure by writing a letter to help get your feelings out.
- Help move through the grieving process by holding a funeral or service.
- Some people also make a plaque to display at their favourite part of the garden.
Remember to do what you feel is right — there is no right or wrong way to commemorate the life that you had together. It’s never easy and it’s not meant to be easy, because pets are an extremely special part of our lives.