COPING WITH PET LOSS AND GRIEF FAQ’s
Having suffered the loss of a pet, owners frequently express a desire to memorialize their pet in some manner. For some pet owners there may be a feeling of guilt or helplessness in not knowing how to cope with the loss of their pet. Listed below are a few of the questions frequently asked by pet owners as they move through the grieving process.
How can I memorialize my pet & what can I do with my pet’s urn?
There is no “right way” to memorialize a pet. As with the disposition of the pet’s remains, this is a very personal decision. What may be “right” for one pet owner, may not be appropriate for another. Each pet owner should do what feels “right” for him or her.
Following a Dedicated Cremation, an Attended Private Partitioned Cremation, or a Private Partitioned Cremation, many pet owners wish to keep the urn containing their pet’s ashes (cremains) at home while others do not. Some pet owners are content with the urn being placed away from view in a safe place. For others, a more prominent location is desirable. Whether the urn is kept at home, placed in a columbarium or buried, or whether the cremains are placed in a more decorative urn or scattered, “it has to feel right”.
In addition to decisions relating to the final resting place for the urn or remains, many people wish to create some form of memorial using their pet’s collar, leash, photos, etc. For such individuals, creation of a “keepsake box” or a “shadow box” may represent the best method of achieving this goal. The “Keepsake Box” provides a repository for special items and may be tucked away in a safe location. The “Shadow Box” is designed to be displayed with the articles contained in it being arranged in a somewhat artistic manner. The “Shadow Box” can also be designed to be an urn with the pet’s pouch of ashes
being placed in the box behind a photo of the pet. Creation of either one of these boxes is considered to be very therapeutic and helpful for pet owners going through the grieving process following the loss of a pet.
“What could I have done differently so my pet would not have died?”
It is not uncommon for guilt to accompany the loss of a pet. This often occurs when the loss is sudden and unexpected. In general, such guilt is not warranted and places undue hardship on the grieving pet owner. Accidents, unexplained illnesses, and genetic weaknesses often take our beloved animal friends from us when least expected. In many situations there is little that can be done to prevent the inevitable. To help pet owners get through the grieving process, Thistledown has assembled a collection of books, pamphlets and articles written specifically about pet loss. Other articles and audio CD’s dealing with the more general concepts of the various stages of grief and coping with grief are also available at Thistledown.
“How can this hurt so much?” The pain associated with the loss of a pet can be considerable for many pet owners. Remember all the good times and think about all those people who have never been fortunate enough to experience the unconditional love provided by pets. A number of the pet loss books, pamphlets and articles available at Thistledown have been written to help grieving pet owners cope with the hurt they are feeling.
“What should I tell my children?”
For many children, the loss of a family pet is their first exposure to death and the loss of someone or something close to them. Many articles have been written over the years to help parents explain the meaning of loss to their children as it pertains to grandparents, siblings, cousins, friends, and even pets. Since every child is different, and since parents know their own children best, we encourage parents to take advantage of such articles to help them explain the meaning of loss to their children in a manner that will best help them cope with the loss.
At Thistledown we have assembled a number of books, articles and worksheets written and prepared specifically to assist parents in helping their children through this difficult time. Listed in the Pet Loss Support Literature page on our web site is a selection of articles that we have assembled relating to this and other subjects of interest. Where possible, we have indicated the source web site for this material. We encourage parents to visit these web sites to learn more about these important areas of concern. Should you wish to purchase any of the books cited, you can purchase a number of them directly from us at Thistledown or you can purchase the books directly from the appropriate author.
“How will my other pets react to the loss of one of their own?” Like people, we find that many pets grieve the loss of one of their own. This is a condition that is often overlooked by pet owners. Pets may show this grief in many ways including loss of appetite, soiling in the house, a change in demeanor including aggressive and/or destructive behaviour, or a need for increased attention by the owner. If the surviving pet(s) did not have the opportunity to see the deceased pet after it had passed away, this grieving may continue for quite some time, depending upon the nature of the bond that had existed between the two pets. To assist owners and surviving pets in moving through the grieving process we offer the following suggestions:
allow the surviving pet(s) to see and smell the deceased pet after it has passed – this will eliminate the need for the surviving pet(s) to search for their lost friend over an extended period of time;
increase the amount of attention you pay to the surviving pet(s), particularly in the days immediately after the passing;
pamper the surviving pet(s), particularly in the days immediately after the passing;
change your routine a bit as well as that of the surviving pet(s) – sometimes a change in the water and/or food dishes used by the surviving pet(s) may help, or a change in where the surviving pet(s) eats (at least in the short-term);
change the route you take with your surviving pet(s) on your walks – this can be therapeutic for both the owner and the surviving pet(s);
allow your pet to sniff the pouch of ashes of the deceased pet if it has been cremated; and
by helping your surviving pet(s) through the grieving process it is likely they will provide the comfort and support required to help you move through the process as well.