Losing a beloved pet can be an incredibly challenging and emotional experience for a family. Pets are also cherished members of the family, and their absence can leave a void that’s difficult to fill. During this time, it’s important to provide support, understanding, and a safe space for each family member to grieve in their own way.
It’s been almost four months now when we lost our 18-year-old adopted cat, Minos. I still cry whenever (and wherever). Minos has been with us when he was 12, a senior cat that was full of sweetness, silliness, and love. He bonded with hubby, always sitting on his lap, asking for pets, and basically sleeping beside him everyday.
I personally was preparing myself mentally and emotionally, knowing that an average cat lives up to 14 years, I was always reading up on the best things for older cats. Still, he lived up to be 18.5 and he spent his best years with us.
We are still healing. I’m aware that it will take long, and different for each of us. But I learned that somehow, we can navigate this loss in our own paces. Here’s a sort of guide on how to help a family deal with pet loss:
Table of Contents
Encourage open conversations about the pet’s passing. Allow each family member, including children, to express their feelings, memories, and thoughts about the pet. Encourage them to share stories and anecdotes that highlight the pet’s role in their lives.
Validation of Feelings
It’s essential to validate each family member’s feelings. Grief can manifest in various ways, such as sadness, anger, guilt, or even numbness. Let them know that their emotions are natural and that it’s okay to feel the way they do.
Create a Memorial
Holding a memorial or a small ceremony can help provide closure. This could involve planting a tree in the pet’s memory, creating a scrapbook of photos, or even writing poems about the pet expressing thoughts and feelings. Involving children in this process can be especially beneficial, as it helps them understand and cope with the concept of loss.
Create a Keepsake
Making a keepsake in memory of the pet can help the family hold on to the positive memories. This could be a painting, a sculpture, or paws printed, and even a piece of jewelry.
While we didn’t hold a memorial, we went to the crematorium to see Minos one final time. We waited for his ashes and prior to that we had asked for his paw to be printed and framed, and we of course, brought home his ashes. Our daughter picked out an urn for this. I also later got this portrait painted and would have it displayed by the bookshelf.
Offer your presence and support to family members who are grieving. Sometimes just being there to listen or offer a shoulder to cry on can make a significant difference.
Be Mindful of Children
If there are children in the family, approach the topic in an age-appropriate manner. Use simple and honest language to explain what has happened. Reassure them that their feelings are normal and that it’s okay to ask questions.
Keeping routines as normal as possible can provide a sense of stability during this tumultuous time. Pets are often integral parts of daily routines, so finding ways to adjust without them can be important for healing.
Seek Professional Help
If the grief is overwhelming or persists for an extended period, consider seeking the help of a professional counselor or therapist. They can offer guidance and coping strategies tailored to each family member’s needs.
Support Each Other
Encourage family members to support one another. Grieving together can foster a sense of unity and shared understanding.
Time and Patience
Healing from pet loss takes time. It’s important to be patient with yourself and your family members as you navigate the grieving process. Everyone will cope in their own way and at their own pace.
Everyone’s grief journey is unique, and there’s no right or wrong way to cope with pet loss.
The most important thing is to provide a safe and understanding environment where each family member can express their feelings and find solace in each other’s company.
Understand that each cope differently with loss, so be patient.