Pets are family, and just like losing a relative, the experience of pet loss is sad, profound and difficult. Because most companion animals have relatively short life spans, enduring the death of a pet is an inevitable part of pet ownership.
Pet loss doesn’t always mean losing a pet to death, either. Mistakes happen, and pet loss can mean one of our babies inadvertently getting out, running off, or getting lost. And when neighborhood canvassing, posting flyers, and calling local shelters doesn’t turn them up, we must eventually work through the loss.
However, without the appropriate knowledge and resources, working through pet loss and properly processing our thoughts and emotions surrounding the event can elude us.
That is why I’ve enlisted the help of my friend, Pet Loss and Bereavement Counselor, Ann Beyke (pictured below). Thank you to Ann for answering some questions for us (her responses are in blue).
What is the best way a friend or relative can help another in the immediate aftermath of losing a pet?
Be present for them. Ask them what they need or want and check in on them. After the loss of an animal companion we may tend to isolate ourselves. Don’t stop asking a person who is mourning the loss of an animal companion if they want to go for a hike, to the movies or have a cup of coffee. Your presence, with or without words, may be of incredible comfort.
My pet has been missing for some time, and I don’t think he/she is coming back. I can’t say for certain whether he/she is still alive, but I miss him/her nonetheless; is grieving and honoring their life appropriate in this situation?
Regardless of the circumstances of our loss, honoring our pet and grieving their departure from our lives can be a part of the healing process.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Being asked to share the journey with a person who has lost a cherished animal companion. Because I have had numerous losses myself, I understand the intense pain of losing a pet. To be there for others who are grieving is such a honor.
What’s your advice on the best way to work through pet loss?
Be gentle on yourself. Surround yourself with people who understand what it’s like to lose a best pal. Give yourself time and cry as much as you need to. Celebrate the incredible joy your pet brought you and let yourself laugh at the crazy things they did. Know that you will heal.
I’m afraid no one will understand my grief or, even worse, that I’ll be ridiculed; how can I bring up the subject of losing my pet and still feel safe and respected?
Sadly, not everyone understands what our pets mean to us and how their loss affects us. We know what’s best in terms of discussing it with people. In fact, in our social and work life, we may gravitate to those who have pets and they often provide needed support. Something as simple as, “I’ve had a recent loss,” may be all we want to say to others.
Again, thank you, Ann, for letting us pick your brain!
Be sure to visit Ann Beyke’s website at http://petlosscounselor.com , and make sure to bookmark it so you’ll always have Ann as a resource (for yourself or for someone you love who may be dealing with pet loss).
Thanks for reading, everyone! ….Have a blessed Thanksgiving!!
~Duck & Turtle
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