For many people, the loss of a pet can be a devastating blow. We often think of our pets as part of the family, giving us unconditional love and trusted companionship. When this family member dies, it can leave us feeling deeply sad, guilty, and angry. There are a number of pet loss support groups and other options available to help you in this difficult time.
Turn to Friends and Family
Often, the first people that we turn to in any time of grief are our friends and family. These are all individuals who likely interacted with your dog or cat, and as such they can be a great source of pet grief support. Be open to expressing how you feel about your loss, including talking about any anger or guilt that you feel. Simply expressing these feelings openly can often help you move past them.
Some of the best sources of pet loss support are friends who have also lost pets. It can be very comforting to talk to someone who knows exactly what you’re going through, and who can help you to recognize that your feelings are natural and expected. You may want to hold a memorial for your pet and invite family and friends to share their favorite memories of your departed companion.
In some cases, you may find that your loved ones don’t understand your grief. Hearing someone say, “Why are you so sad? It’s just a dog. You should get over it,” can be very painful. In situations like these, it’s best not to argue with the person. It’s likely that they have never had a pet that they were so close to, or that they simply don’t express grief in the same way that you do.
Don’t let anyone tell you how you should or shouldn’t feel. There is no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed of your emotions. Remember that the grieving process can take a long time, and you should let yourself move through your loss at your own pace.
Local Pet Loss Support Groups
If you aren’t comfortable talking to your family, or if you feel like you need additional support, you may want to seek out a local pet loss support group. Ask your veterinarian if he or she knows of any groups in your area. Pet rescue organizations or a local veterinary school may also be able to help.
Being in a safe environment surrounded by people who are also coping with pet loss helps many people with the mourning process. Simply knowing that other people share a similar experience and seeing how they are coping with the emotions can help you to heal. Be open to the process and share as much as you’re comfortable with.
Internet Blogs and Discussion Forums
There are many sources of pet grief support online as well. A search for “pet loss support online” will provide you with many different websites where you can connect to other people around the world. Unlike a local support group where you may feel uncomfortable speaking up, online forums can provide a level of anonymity that many people find lets them be more open and honest.
Another benefit of an online pet loss support group is that it’s available 24 hours a day. You might not always find someone else online when you are, but you may find comfort in being able to login at 2 AM after a sleepless night of missing your dog. You can read messages and stories from other pet owners, and leave your own message behind. Often, the simple process of expressing your feelings at the time you’re having them can make the pain a little easier to deal with.
Pet Loss Hotlines
In cases where you want to speak directly to another person rather than communicating through the distance of a computer, consider calling a pet loss hotline. Most veterinary schools offer a free telephone hotline manned by veterinary student volunteers. You can check the department’s website for the number. If you don’t have a local vet school to call, many local pet care organizations also offer pet loss hotline help. Not all hotlines are open 24 hours a day, so check the website for when to call.
Other Sources of Support
If you’re struggling to cope after the loss of your pet, it’s important to find help. Turn to a pastor other religious figure in your life or make an appointment with a grief counselor. The loss of a pet can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts, and ignoring the problem or thinking that you shouldn’t feel that way won’t help. Be kind to yourself. Reach out for the help that you need.