Grief is a topic that is rarely discussed and usually avoided. People often feel they don’t have the ‘right’ words to say and therefore say nothing at all. Unfortunately grief is often experienced when you have pets as it is highly likely that you’ll outlive your pets. In this sense, grief is expected when you own pets, however it is never easy when the time comes.
Grief is a completely natural and normal emotion. It is okay to express sorrow and there is no right or wrong way to do so. Grieving can take weeks or many months depending on the person and the relationship they had with the lost pet. Everyone’s bereavement journey will be different, it will take time to adjust to being without the beloved pet. The lost pet is often more than just a ‘pet’ they are a companion, a family member and a friend. They have given unconditional love and provided comfort and support to you throughout their life. However, people often feel that their grief is not appropriately acknowledged by others in the community who perhaps don’t appreciate the loss.
It can also be difficult to deal with the loss of a pet when children are involved. It is important to let children see your feelings as well as be allowed to express their own. Having an honest conversation about what has happened is critical to the children’s understanding of the situation. There are more and more resources available to assist with the grieving process. Grief and bereavement counselling is one good option.
Our other pets also have close bonds and suffer from grief. Signs your pet is suffering grief can include; behaving in a withdrawn manner, lack of interest in play or anxious behaviours such as pacing, not settling at night or scratching at doors. They may also have changes to their appetite, spend time looking for their lost animal friend or seek more physical contact from their owners.
To help support your pet it is important to keep up normal routines including walks and feeding times. Seek veterinary advice if your pet appears unwell or there is no improvement in appetite and anxious behaviours remain. Medication may be required until they adjust to the new situation.
Dealing with the loss of a beloved pet is difficult for owners, families and other pets alike. If we let ourselves grieve properly, our hearts will allow us to love another pet in the same way we did with the one that has passed over the rainbow bridge
Written by Caity Thomson