Dealing with the loss of a family Pet


If you have ever loved a pet, then you probably already know that unfortunately they don’t tend live as long as we do, although my Aunts tortoise is still going strong after 35yrs. We lost our beloved family dog last year as well as our two goldfish (which my son loved) and it was a real learning experience for us all as it was the first time my son had had to deal with such things. For us as adults we do to a degree understand and deal with these things better but it can hit children pretty hard and there for as a family can be a difficult time to deal with. I thought I would just talk from our recent experience on what its like.

When the time does come however and your dog or cat passes away, well-meaning family and friends may recommend that you adopt a ‘replacement pet’ right away, or try to lift your spirits by remind you that you have only lost a pet which just doesn't really work with kids and rather than helping, this can make the process of grieving all the harder. For many of us, a pet is a vital part of the family - one that children and parents relate to in different ways, a loyal, loving companion that is a paramount sources of unconditional love. I came across a website all about Pet Loss and they wrote a really good post about 10 common questions people ask after losing a pet and it's been a great source of information for me. 

Are You a Victim of Disenfranchised Grief?

I've been reading a lot about disenfranchised grief lately after researching counselling and came across this post, in essence, is the kind you cannot express freely with others, for one of various reasons. It can occur when you are grieving for ‘someone’ who is not human but who is much loved nonetheless: your pet. This can be felt especially by children, as parents we know the reality and can  process things in a more realistic way despite how hard it is, while children cannot always do this.

The Loss of a Pet can be Emotionally Overpowering

Those who lose a pet may have actually been flitting through the five stages of grief, as espoused by Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross, for months or years before their pet actually dies, often because possibly the pet was battling a serious disease such as heart disease or simply becoming aware of its ageing process. At other times, we are forced to face the stages of grief suddenly, when our pet passes quickly and without previous warning. In both cases it can be overwhelming. Somehow, even if you know that your pet won’t be around forever, the moment they actually leave is a difficult time and can hit a family hard and take time to get over.

Reclaim Your Right to Grieve

Coming to terms with the loss of a loved one (pets included) is sometimes described as riding waves, sometimes you feel completely fine and everything has settled and returned back to normal and then the next moment sadness can take over and life seems somewhat changed.

One of the positive things you can do is build something together - be it an album of your best moments alongside your pet, a video, or a poem and make it a real celebration of life and something to look forward too as well as creating a real keepsake. We do this when my son wants to remember our family day, we look back at videos and photos and that way he never seems forgotten.

Pets are fantastic and one day we will get another dog and it is all apart of the circle of life and his passing did bring up some serious topics for our son which we felt we dealt with in a positive and respectful way and even though they may go before you you shouldn't be put off getting a pet as long as you can look after them and provide them with a safe and loving home.

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