Someone close to the TalkDeath team recently lost their best friend, Frank. Frank was a scrappy little Persian cat and watching our friend go through the same grieving process we ourselves have gone through with people close to us, made us want to examine the subject of pet loss a little closer. Ask any pet owner and they’ll tell you that they share an intense bond with their companion animal. Naturally then, it is normal for us to experience intense feelings of sadness and grief when our companion pets die. It is important to understand that these feelings are normal and while some people may have difficulty in understanding this, you need to give yourself time to properly heal, as you would with any death. We have put together some tips for you to get through the loss of a pet as well as some helpful advice for what comes after the final trip to the vet.
People who do not understand the bond between humans and companion animals may not understand your pain.
Coping with Pet Loss:
- Companion animals are more than “just pets” for people; they are family members and friends. Grieving for our companions can be just like grieving for a human. We share feelings of love, anger and joy with our companion animals so it is a safe to say we will feel the same guilt, denial, anger and sadness after their passing as we would for a human. The Kubler-Ross model states that there are different stages to the grieving process. While everyone reacts to grief differently, you can expect to feel anger, guilt, sadness, anxiety, depression and finally acceptance or hope. This process is normal no matter how it occurs.
- You need to give yourself time to heal. The stages of grief and loss can take a long time to work through. Do not be worried if after several weeks or months you are still experiencing feelings of loss, guilt or sadness. However do not be afraid to speak to a professional if these feeling persist for too long. There is nothing to be ashamed about and remember that people who do not understand the bond between humans and companion animals may not understand your pain.
- You should spend as much time alone as you need. However you should not forget that there are people around you who love you. Surround yourself with friends and family, even if they may not understand or share your grief. Organize a movie night, spend a weekend at a family member’s home, call a friend whose shoulder you can cry on, etc. Try your best to be active and social.
- Throw a party! Holding an event after the loss of your companion may seem insensitive, however celebrating life after loss can be very liberating. This will allow you to surround yourself with friends and family and allow those who knew your companion to express how they feel in an open and fun environment. Print out photographs of your companion, buy snacks and decorate. Rituals are an important way of letting go of both humans and animals. There are many ways to remember a pet, you need to find which way is best for you.
For more tips on dealing with feelings of depression or sadness –> Dealing With Loneliness: How to Overcome Feelings of Loneliness
There are many decisions to make after a pet dies. If the death is sudden, you may be faced with having to make a quick decision at the vet’s office. Once your companion has been declared at the veterinarian’s office, there will be several steps to take. They will allow you to spend time with your companion before explaining to you your options. In North America there are many services to deal with the remains of your companion animal including cremation, burials and artisanal options.
- Cremation: One of the fastest growing services for humans, cremation is also the most popular for pets. However the cost of pet cremation is often a barrier for many people. There are three different options available to you. The vet will usually offer a “group” cremation where you companion is cremated along with other animals who have passed away at the clinic. If you want to keep your companion’s remains, you can either have the vet cremate them for you or you can use Google to search for local pet crematoriums. They are often found in rural towns or suburbs. The cost for group pet cremation runs anywhere from 50$-150$. The cost for pet cremation at the vet or private institution can run from 250$-400$.
- Home burial: If your companion animal dies at home or at the vet, you are allowed to bury them on private property. Many companies even offer caskets or shrouds for animals. A home burial can give you the option to grieve in your own way and to ability to build your own memorial. There are some States and Provinces which limit your ability to bury animals on private property so it is best to check with your local officials for more information. You are also permitted to bury your companion animal on State, Federal and Crown land. This is a good option if you lack private space.
- Cemeteries: Some municipalities and towns have dedicated pet cemeteries(think Stephen King) while many more traditional cemeteries have opened separate spaces for pets to be buried. The cost of pet burials vary from location to location and vary by the size and weight of your companion animal. A small lot can cost as little as 60$ while a very larger animal may cost you upwards of 900$ with casket. You are even able to buy urns for your companion.
- Diamonds: Finally there is one of our favorite services, artisanal jewelry. There are many companies who today promise to turn your or your loved ones ashes into diamonds or other precious metals. These services are offered to both humans and nonhumans alike. The option is not cheap, running anywhere for 1,500$ to 20,000$ however it can be a beautiful way to memorialize the memory of a lost pet.
- Digital Memorial: Have you considered making a memorial for your beloved companion? Digital memorials are an important way to preserve the memory of your lost pet by organizing photographs, having friends and family leave condolences and by ensuring that your favorite moments will never be forgotten. The process is also a healthy way of working through your grief. MyKeeper.com allows you to quickly and easily ensure that your memories last a lifetime.