If you have ever shared a special bond with a beloved pet, grieving your loss can seem unbearable.
Humans simply live longer than our furry friends. Most of us will experience the death of a pet at some point. Whether you have recently lost a pet or you are anticipating the passing of one who’s aging or ill, it’s helpful to understand the grieving process. Allow yourself to walk through the stages of grief so that healing can eventually take place.
Never think that grieving for your pet angel is inappropriate just because he or she is an animal, not a human. Your pet angel is part of the family, and it’s okay to take your time to mourn and dust yourself off.
To understand the complexity of grief, let’s look at the Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as the “5 Stages of Grief.” Of course, these stages do not represent all of the emotions that will go through our mind and soul. It’s possible to experience each of these stages in any order, for any amount of time, or perhaps, not at all. The Kübler-Ross model is a guide to help us better understand the emotions that can come with grief.
Stage 1 - Denial
This is generally the first stage. Our minds use this tactic as a defense mechanism to help us cope. During this stage, the grieving individual tends to feel numb or in shock.
Stage 2- Anger
Anger can feel like losing control but it’s an essential part of grieving. It can have a positive side, too. Having anger shows us how strong our love is – it helps to define the meaning of our loss and give structure to our struggle.
Stage 3 - Bargaining
During this stage, we want to bargain for our life to go back to the way it was. We want to offer a lifetime of service, a promise to change, or eternal devotion in return for our loved pet angel. We want a chance of doing it all over again and doing it better. While it’s important to allow this bargaining stage to take place, it’s equally important to remind ourselves that we are not in control, and we’ve done the best we could.
Stage 4 - Depression
At this point in grieving, there is a strong awareness and connection to the present. Sadness washes over all aspects of life. It can be difficult to get out of bed and accomplish the most mundane tasks. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – talking to friends and family can often soothe our minds and emotions.
Stage 5 – Acceptance
This is not to be confused with being “over it.” The pain of losing a pet can last a lifetime. To gain acceptance, on the other hand, is to acknowledge and accept that our beloved pet has moved on physically. This is where we learn to adjust.
There are a few things we can do to help the process along and preserve our precious memories. Here are a handful of ways to show our love and respect for our beloved companions that have passed:
1. Create a small altar with photos, favorite toys, and perhaps your pets collars. This small dedication can help bring us closer to acceptance. This also allows us to keep our pet’s memory alive by inspiring stories and happy memories.
2. Keep their tags on your keychain.
3. A beautiful, individually selected or custom urn for your cremated pet can make a remarkable centerpiece to always remember.
4. Look for websites, books, support groups or individual counseling if need be. Never have shame in seeking support. If you need extra help, Pet Loss Help list bereavement resources where you can find professional help in your area.
As time passes, your wounds will heal as long as you allow yourself time and space. The time you shared with your pets can define some of the most important moments in your life – so be kind to yourself in the process.