One of my clients told me recently: “My girlfriend’s cat died. She had to put it down. Both of us couldn’t be there. But that was a couple of days ago. And she’s still going on…” That got me thinking: how should you and your close ones handle the death of a pet? Here are some suggestions.
Looking at the statistics, more and more people have pets. Cats have now won out over dogs. People also have other pets as well. Looking at the pet food counters in the supermarkets, it’s very clear how much people prize their animals. They buy them gourmet dinners, great outdoors clothes, exotic toys, and take them everywhere. They watch pet and animal shows on television. So, pets are family, they are part of who we are and how we see ourselves.
When your pet is sick, hurt, or dies, it can be a great loss. You can feel the same feelings you would if a family member or close friend were similarly affected. You should give vent to those feelings and honor them, not deny them or put someone down who is feeling them. You should allow a suitable period of grieving, including having people support you about your loss.
You may want some memory of your pet. Our vet offered to make a copy of our cat’s paw print for us. You may want your own souvenir. Again, without judging too much, try to have the souvenir stay within suitable bounds. I know this is controversial, but don’t spend all your money on a shrine to your pet. You or your partner’s life needs to go on, and your pet would want you to be happy. And perhaps find another pet to love.
You can get support in your grief. Check with your local veterinary association or animal shelter to see whether there’s a pet grief group. If there isn’t, talk to your counselor about your loss. Even if there is a group, tell your counselor about the loss. If you have a child, especially a younger child who was attached to her/his pet, tell your child’s teacher or caregiver about her or his loss.
Honor your pet and her or his time with you by living your life to its fullest. After a suitable time, find another pet to love. She or he won’t be the same, but she or he will be yours and appreciative of a great owner!