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Losing a Pet – How to Cope

When we lose a pet, we lose so much more. There are those that see the loss of a pet as nothing more than losing an animal and that they can be replaced and life will go on as normal.

However, for those of us who have pets that we see as family, the loss is much more. Your pets become a close member of your family, part of the furniture even. We lose a companion, a confidante, a social ice breaker, a reason to get up in the morning, something to care for and love and have that love returned tenfold. To suddenly lose them can be mind-numbing and you can find yourself not knowing what to do.

Losing a pet is one of the most devastating things that can happen to us. We may feel helpless and as if there is no end to the pain we feel. But there is support out there and there are ways to help yourself through the pain.

When you come to Legacy Pets, we urge you to talk to us. We would hate for people to come to us and feel like you need to hold your emotions in, our team are there to help you every step of the way and we want you to feel as if you can take as long as you need to say goodbye to your pet and take the opportunity to share fond memories and stories with our understanding team.

Common Feelings:

Common feelings felt when we lose a pet are:

Sadness, Guilt, Anger, Numbness & Depression

Sadness is to be expected, we have just lost a dear companion and friend. Tears may come easily and we may try to stop them as we may feel we should be strong for our lost pet. But holding in the feelings and tears just causes us more pain and can lead to a delayed or chronic grief. It is important to face the feelings, experience them and work through them. Showing emotion is not a sign of weakness it shows that we are only human and that we are dealing with the loss as best we can.

Guilt is a common feeling, it is natural but that doesn’t mean it is warranted. Choosing euthanasia may cause feelings of guilt, maybe you feel it was the wrong decision or was too soon or too late, but in reality we made the best decision not the easiest. We made a decision based on the facts we had and with the best of intentions.

Anger is a natural response to the unfairness of the situation. Sometimes anger is self-directed or directed at the vet. But when we take a minute to calm down we realise there is no basis for our anger. If we write down the reasons why we are angry we can work through them.

Numbness may be felt upon hearing bad news or shortly after the pet has passed. Feeling numb may be the brains way of protecting us from what has happened, allowing us to process a traumatic event one piece at a time so we are not overwhelmed. If you feel numb and after a couple of days or so you feel that it isn’t lifting, please speak to your GP who will be able to help you.

Depression is more than feeling sad, when we are depressed we may want to keep socially isolated, seeking no comfort from those close to us. There may be times when we eat too much or too little or sleep too much or too little. There may be feelings of what is the point? There may be intrusive thoughts. If you feel that you are struggling please speak to your GP, there is no shame in seeking help.

There is no easy way out of grief, you have to face it head on and go through it to come out the other side. Grief never really leaves us but the pain becomes a dull ache we learn to live with, and one day the memories will bring a smile rather than pain.

How You Can Cope:

  • Writing a letter to your deceased pet may sound silly, but it is surprisingly therapeutic. You may be surprised at how much you get down onto paper.

  • Keeping a journal can help when you feel lost, you could write about your day and write to your pet.

  • Some people find painting or drawing helps to release some of the emotions and pain.

  • Allow yourself to cry if you feel it coming, stopping the tears can be physically painful, and they need to be released. You will stop crying at some point, some people worry once they start, they won’t be able to stop.

  • Talk about how you feel to friends and family, explain what you need from them, they can’t help if they don’t know how.

  • If you don’t feel that you can open up to friends and family for fear that they won’t understand you please consider contacting a pet bereavement counsellor.

The Next Step:

You may be reading this and relating your own feelings to the ones we’ve highlighted above yet you’re thinking something along the lines of, “I don’t need to see a Pet Bereavement Counsellor, do I?”

We don’t want you to feel like this is an extreme step to take, talking out your feelings with a trained counsellor is likely to bring you the comfort and closure that you desire. There is something refreshing about opening up your feelings to a third party person who, although doesn’t know you or never knew your pet, will still be able to understand exactly where you’re coming from and be able to advise you on how to carry on in life.

We have our very own dedicated, private bereavement group on Facebook filled with hundreds of individuals going through the same feelings and experience you are. You can find us by searching: Legacy Pets Bereavement Support Group

Carrie Kearn is an excellent pet bereavement counsellor based in Bury at the Newtons co working space on the Rock. She offers face to face, e mail and phone consults. She was a veterinary care assistant for 16 years and uses her experience to help my clients. She has been a pet bereavement counsellor since 2001 so is extremely experienced in the field.

The Blue Cross also offer a free counselling service via phone or email, this service is provided by highly trained volunteers. The number is:

Helpline: 0800 096 6606

Please know that you are not alone, there is support out there. Your loss matters and is valid.


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