Grief and Goodbyes: Dealing with the Death of a Pet

A beloved pet plays a valuable role in family life. Your cat, dog, bird, hamster, or other domesticated animal can become like a member of the family or a close friend. When a pet dies, it can be hard on everyone, especially children. As with human loved ones, don’t be in a hurry to get your pet completely out of sight and out of mind. Here are a few tips to help pet owners work through a healing grief process.

Let Everyone Say Goodbye

Sometimes a pet can die unexpectedly, while at other times the loss comes as a result of old age or a terminal illness. When the pet is gone, leaving a body for burial, let all the family members day goodbye. This may be different for everyone. Parents might smile and give their pet a final pat. Children might shed some tears and say a prayer.

Providing family unity during a period of loss provides an important opportunity to teach children how to deal with the pain of loss. Even if the pet does not leave a body that can be viewed comfortably, gather the family for a moment of shared mourning to show kids how to cope with the loss of a pet.

Pay Tribute

Even if the pet was mischievous or caused trouble, share happier times or funny occasions when the little scamp made everyone laugh. Everyone feels better when a sorrowful event ends on a positive note. Although your beloved pet is gone, you still have happy memories to share in supporting each other during this sad time.

Have a Funeral

A thoughtful goodbye that is organized and focused on the pet’s passing can serve as a portal to healing. The funeral does not have to be elaborate, time-consuming, or costly. But it can teach some lovely truths about devotion and affection for those who pass away. A suitable casket and possibly a grave marker instills a sense of reality and permanence to the sense of loss that, while difficult to accept, is also a step on the path to accepting finality and moving on instead of getting mired in painful mourning.

Keep Mementos

It may be tempting to get rid of everything associated with your pet, such as bedding, a collar, or toys. But it may help to keep one or two mementos as a way of remembering your special family friend for years or maybe even generations to come. A framed photograph or an inscribed leash might be the token of remembrance you choose to retain as a symbol of the beloved pet who played an important part in your family.

Losing a pet is not easy. But mourning with dignity and sorrow helps to implement a healthy grieving process.

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