Pets are awesome–they are scientifically proven to lessen health deficiencies like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even excessive stress. Not only that, they can potentially give health benefits like increased fitness and of course their commonly known ability to bring genuine happiness to their owners by improving their mood!
But the sad thing is that life is finite. We need to come to terms with the sad fact that we can’t keep them forever. That is not a threat. Nobody’s going to break into your house to physically end your beloved pet. It’s just a fact that most animals have shorter lifespans than humans. Be it a dog, a cat, a hamster, a parrot, a tarantula, a snake, a monitor lizard, a pygmy marmoset, or even a pony if you’re really rich, all of them will die before you do. Losing a pet for some people is far from a trivial thing. So, here, let me tell you how my pet died and what I did to cope with the loss afterwards.
1. Know that your pain is valid.
Last year, I lost my dog who had been a part of my family for 8 years. She was hit by a careless driver passing by our lot. Having gone through a handful of accidents that left rather painful scars, I considered myself fairly thick-skinned. However, what I felt when I found her body rivaled the physical pains I've experienced. Losing a pet for some people is akin to losing a family member. I always thought that this statement was an exaggeration. But there, at that moment, I finally understood what they meant.
Seeing her dead shook me to the very core of my being. I learned that feelings like sadness, anger, loneliness, shock, and confusion were normal when faced with the death of a beloved pet. You shouldn’t be ashamed of sentimentality for an animal you loved and had loved you back. Pets are like family–and no one will begrudge you for mourning family now will they?
2. Healthily express your negative emotions.
Try to imagine yourself in my place. Naturally, you can expect several negative emotions bubbling up. The pounding in my head, was the first to come. My disbelief became rage; you can expect to be filled with the desire to physically lash out at those responsible. But this is not inherently a bad thing. Your negative emotions are a sign that you genuinely loved them, memories both good and bad. Allow yourself to grieve naturally. Don’t rush the process, and be patient with yourself and those around you. Remember that you can’t remove these emotions out by force, and doing so will only lengthen their stay.
3. Try to remember how you both lived and not how they died.
To cope with a pet dying is likely the first experience with death some of you may have. I cope with my loss by refusing to cling to how they died and instead remember all the happiness they gave me with the limited time they had in this world. Remember them as they lived and not how they died is how I say it.
4. Look for support among family and other animal lovers.
Try to be with those who can relate to you the most, because it can help cushion the pain. If there is anyone who could relate to the pain of losing your pet, it’s those who have the same attachment to them as you. In most cases, this will be your immediate family. They will likely be the ones to understand what you’re going through the most.
If for some reason your family is not sympathetic, look for other animal lovers using the resources available to you. Check online message boards, pet loss support groups, and even pet loss hotlines if need be.
5. Look for professional aid if necessary.
Not everyone can recover so easily. I’ve seen cases where the deaths of pets lead to persistent depression. It reached to a point that they begin to have difficult going through daily life. If you believe that you are nearing this point, don’t be ashamed or afraid to go to a professional that could further help you and get you through your healing process.
6. Don't rush anything.
When losing a pet, it's best to understand that no one can tell you how to process your grief. You may hear people saying something along the lines of “Get over it” or “It was just a dog”. These people are irrelevant. You need to know that grieving takes both time and patience.
When you’re ready, It’s also advisable to consider adopting another pet. This can help fill the emotional void left in your heart if you are having difficulty moving on. This does not mean that you are completely forgetting the memories of your old pet, it just means that you are ready to create new ones.
Now go and make the most out of the time that you have with your pets. Show them how much you care, go for a walk, play in the park, and rest by the family couch on a Friday night. Make sure to feed them crackers, or just do anything that you know makes them happy and comfortable.
You may not notice it from your pets sometimes, but they’ll understand your emotions. Just show them that you love them, and try to keep them healthy, and usually that’s enough. Now excuse me, I have to feed my other dogs that I in no way adopted to deal with my crippling loneliness.
ALSO READ: Why I Chose The Pain Of Letting Go Over The Pain Of Holding On