Grieving a deceased pet may seem as difficult as losing a loved one. Similar to losing a loved one, what often helps us heal most is to find meaningful ways to keep their memory alive.
We found guidance on healthy ways to cope with grief after losing a pet from Kristen Levine, a pet industry professional who authors a “pet-parenting” blog called KristenLevine.com/blog. Levine also manages two pet companies, Fetching Communications and PetPR.com. She helps “pet parents” cope with illness and/or passing of their much-loved animal companions.
According to Kristen, there are two essential parts to the grieving process. First, sharing your experience and feelings with sympathetic loved ones is a healthy way to acknowledge and express your loss. Second, preparing a public or private memorial can also start the healing.
Kristen cites many examples of how pet owners honor the memory of their cherished animal companions. For example, the owners of a beloved greyhound commissioned a canvas portrait soon after adopting her. Just a few months later, “Miss Bandit” passed away following a serious health condition. Her portrait still hangs in a special place where her owners can remember her fondly everyday.
Kristen provides these six tips offered by Helpguide.org to help pet owners cope with grief:
1. Own your grief
Your grief is personal. No one should tell you to “move on” or “get over it.” It’s okay to feel angry, cry or not cry. It’s also ok to laugh and find moments of joy.
2. Reach out
Contact pet-loss hotlines and support groups or check online message boards. Find a supportive friend who will listen to you.
3. Create healing rituals
A final service or pet memorial can help you and others openly express your feelings about your pet. Many funeral homes offer pet memorial services and dedicated pet cemeteries.
4. Create a legacy
Plant a tree or compile a photo album or scrapbook to celebrate the life you shared with your animal companion.
5. Care for yourself
Losing a pet can deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Eat healthy, get rest and make time for exercise to boost your mood.
6. Maintain your routine with other pets.
Surviving pets also experience loss when a family pet passes away. They may become distressed by your sorrow. Maintain their daily routines or increase playtime to help them and yourself.
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