Grieving the Loss of a Companion Animal

When we open our homes and our hearts to a companion animal, we agree to share our lives and our future with these sweet little souls.

Animals can quickly captivate our hearts and become an irreplaceable part of our family and our everyday routines are greatly enhanced by their presence and friendship.

Losing a pet or companion animal can be just as heartbreaking as losing any member of the family. Whether it’s a sudden loss or the gradual degradation of a pet’s health, it’s never easy to heal after they’re gone. Or, if a pet disappears suddenly, closure may be impossible to achieve, and this can extend the grieving process and fill your days with endless questions and ongoing sadness.

So how can we even begin to mourn the loss of a companion pet who has always been there, with us and for us?

Allow yourself time to process your loss

Give yourself permission to grieve the loss of your furry four-legged or feathered friend. The hole they leave in your routine and in your life should not be understated.

Allow adequate time and space to experience the feelings of loss and to process the stages and states of grief. If required, explain the situation to your peers and colleagues, and take time off work to help you overcome the immediate feelings of loss. Most people are quite understanding of how grief can impact our lives.

Time will help you process your emotions in a natural, healthy way. Don’t expect to simply move on after such a loss.

Stay healthy as you grieve

It can be easy to forget about yourself when you are grieving the loss of a pet. Keeping healthy during this trying time is essential, especially if you have other pets or family members to attend to. 

Grief is a complicated set of feelings and it is important to stick to your usual routine throughout, to lessen the physical impacts associated with mourning.

Try to eat, sleep, and exercise as normal. This can be painful, especially if your pet usually accompanies you on walks or sleeps beside you, but your personal health must be a priority at this time.

Avoid relying on harmful coping behaviours such as alcohol and instead allow yourself to feel the feels. Resist the urge to isolate yourself too. Instead, try sharing your grief with your friends and family members. Talking can improve your acceptance of the loss and may help you regain control over your daily schedule.

Create a memorial to your pet

Managing your emotions after the loss of a companion animal can be tricky. One positive and peaceful way to remember your pet is to create a memorial dedicated to them.

This can include a grave or headstone to visit, a framed photograph, or a special spot on a shelf on which to create a tribute. You could collect your pet’s accessories like toys, leashes, and collars and display them together.

Having a quiet spot to remember your pet will enable you to reflect upon the love you have received from them, the unique bond of friendship, and ensure they are not forgotten.

A memorial may be especially useful to help a child process their grief and may offer them a valuable and necessary place to speak about their feelings without fear of judgement. A bench or wall you might already associate with your pet can be a perfect memorial spot to sit quietly and reflect on the good times you shared together.

Remember, it’s okay to not be okay

Reconstructing your life without your companion can seem daunting. Animals look up to us in such a curious and delightful way and the bonds we forge are truly special ones.

Bereaved people often report that processing their grief alone seems easier and less indulgent. Resist the urge to isolate yourself as you mourn. Grief affects us very differently and it’s perfectly natural to feel anger, helplessness, or a sense of unfairness.

It’s also completely normal to cry! Feelings of sadness, loneliness, and anxiety towards the future can seem overwhelming. Sharing these feelings with a trusted friend, family member, or a licensed therapist can be a great relief and help you reconstruct your life after loss.

Remember, nobody will truly comprehend your loss, as your relationship with your companion animal is such a unique one. Understand through this difficult time of mourning that everything is going to be okay, allow acceptance to ease in overtime, and be thankful for the impact your pet has had on your life.

We’re so lucky to have these beautiful, animated souls share our homes and our hearts, and every day spent with a pet is a lucky one. Remembering your friend and the experiences you shared and reflecting upon the warmth and closeness they gave to you during your time together will bring you a sense of balance, help you move forward, and find comfort in this difficult time.

Photo credit: Pixabay, LUM3N