Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How To Deal With the Loss of a Pet

Here's a picture of my beloved Clovis, who will have been gone for 10 years today.  She was my first bunny, and I can't tell you how much I lover her still.  What an amazing girl she was!  She was only 4 pounds, but this Holland Lop taught me about bunnies, and a lot about myself too.  Even now, I know she's watching over me from the beyond.
Not everyone can understand how it feels to lose a cherished pet.  Whether you're experiencing with the loss of your cat, trying to handle the death of your dog, or dealing with losing another pet who has passed away, the shock of grief can be surprising to you.  Perhaps you did not expect this loss to affect you the way it is doing.  However, many people across the world have experienced this pain.  You're not alone.  We all need a hand in dealing with our pain sometimes.  Here are a few tips to help you get through this difficult time.  
Give yourself ample time to grieve.  This cannot be overstated!  Folks who are not animal lovers will never understand.  Even though our pets are not humans, they are are still a part of our family.  You won't feel better overnight, so allow yourself a few days to get over the initial shock and grief.  If you can take a day or two off of work, go for it.  Take a "mental health day" or two if you feel that you need it.  Give yourself a bit of time to feel your emotions and to adjust.
Talk with others who will understand.  Not everyone is going to acknowledge that your pet is worth mourning.  I still remember when my favorite rat, who had lived almost 3 years, passed suddenly when I was across the country.  I got the phone call from my brother, and later when my great-grandmother called me to see how I was doing, she said "You shouldn't feel that way about an animal."  (I loved my Gram dearly, but she just wasn't an animal person!)  When Clovis was ill in the hospital, one of my in-laws told me not to worry, I can just buy a "Clovis #2" if she didn't make it.  Neither of these statements were meant to make me feel bad; they both came from people who love me!  But some folks will get it, and some won't.  It's a lot better to talk about your pet (and your feelings) with those who do get it.  Anything less will just make you feel worse, belittle your feelings (unintentionally, I'm sure!), and just piss you off unnecessarily.  
Share the memories with folks who knew your pet.  This is a common healing technique that people often use with their kids, when a beloved dog or cat dies.  But why limit it to young people, when it can be beneficial to just about anyone?  Talk about the good times.  Remember the funny things that your cat used to do.  Talk about how cute your dog was when you first brought him home.  Look at pictures, tell stories, and enjoy the stroll down memory lane.  Remembering is a wonderful way to begin healing after the loss of your pet.
Keep their things close by.  You'd think that this might make it hurt more, but in those first days after your pet dies, having their toys, their special blankie, or their other important items near can actually be comforting to you.  Over time, you may want to start boxing up their things.  Toss some of them if and when you feel ready.  You can also donate things that are still good, or maybe just save their things.  I still have Clovis's "bunny bed" (it was actually a small dog bed that she'd snooze on in the living room sometimes), and her soft stuffed carrot that squeaks -- a full decade later!  I also have my Seamus's "cone of shame" from the bunny vet.  I don't think I'll ever give them away.  Right now, they're in my storage space, but it feels nice just knowing I can visit them whenever I feel the need.
When you're feeling ready, adopt a new pet!  I know you'd feel like you're "cheating" on them... but after a suitable time, you may want to open your heart and home to a new dog or cat.  The loss of a pet can be traumatic and upsetting, but after your pet has died, you may find that you want to get a new one at some point.  I waited about six weeks after Clovis died; I knew that she would have wanted me to adopt a bunny who was homeless, and who needed me.  We wound up adopting two, and they were with us for seven great years!  (And after they were gone, we adopted two more bunnies!)  Knowing Clovis gave 4 other bunnies the chance to be adopted and loved!  When your pet dies, try to think of what would do the best good.  Taking that into consideration can help you to make the right decision.

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