It’s normal to feel grief and sadness if a much loved pet dies. We provide you with some suggestions for healthy ways to cope.
The loss can feel overwhelming and trigger all sorts of painful and difficult feelings. While some people may not understand the tough time your pet may have been there for you through, don’t ever feel ashamed or embarrassed about grieving for a pet.
The love for our pets can be bigger than our human family, especially if that pet has been with you during some tough or traumatic times.
Some of us chose not to, or couldn't have children - so pets have replaced children we would have had. Or the children we had once.
Please know that you are NOT alone. It will take a day at a time, but each day will get easier.
Here are some suggestions for healthy ways to get through it:
Seek professional help. If your grief doesn’t go away and interferes with your ability to sleep, eat and exercise, go see a doctor who may assess you for depression and recommend counselling, or medication. Just remember, you're not alone. There are also usually people in your local community's facebook group who can relate to a pet passing away. Try looking it up and sharing that your pet has passed away, but don't react to online 'trolls' (people who deliberately try to upset genuine people and say nasty things online using an anaymous account just for their own entertainment).
- Pet Loss Support Line Australia 1300 431 450 NZ: 0800 114 421 This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Lifeline Australia - 13 11 14 This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also chat online with the Lifeline support service every day from 7:00 PM until 4:00 AM (AEDST).
- Beyond Blue - 1300 224 636 This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also chat online with the beyondblue support service every day from 3:00 PM until 12:00 AM (AEDST).
Ask a friend to go for a walk with you and talk it through. Exercise will help boost your mood and may help bring a new perspective. Many people find the sea breeze and ocean at the beach mood-boosting.
Spend time with people who care about you. The stress of losing a pet can quickly drain your energy. Spend time face to face with people who care about you, eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to release endorphins and help boost your mood.
Share with people who can relate in your local online pet or community group.
Become a Foster Carer of an animal or animals at your local animal rescue organisation or nearest RSPCA.
Create a tennis ball memorial. Preparing a tennis ball memorial in your local dog park, sharing the fun and love you shared with your pet may help you share your memory and spread joy in your community.
Photo by Car Jan Lip
Planting a tree in your yard in memory of your pet is another great way to help their memory live on.
Volunteer at an animal rescue Shelter. Your local RSPCA is always looking for helping hands. You might even learn a new interesting job skill in an area you didn’t expect. Not all the jobs are animal-related. Sometimes they need help with Admin, Customer Support in the Call Centre, Photography of pets looking for furever homes, Social Media help, Events, Fundraising, driving the Wildlife Hospital Ambulance, curating stock for their Op Shops, and more! You will more than likely come across other Pet Owners while volunteering who can relate with a story about their own pet passing away and how their pet impacted their lives while they were alive.
Take a day off work. In Australia, all employees are entitled to bereavement leave for human family members. Unfortunately this doesn’t cover pets in employment legislation. However, a possibility might be applying for an annual leave day and sharing with your manager the reason why. Some people may find work a good distraction on the other hand. Everyone is different.
Don’t let other pets become distressed by your sadness. Other pets can also experience loss when a pet dies, or become distressed sensing or healing your sadness. Maintaining their daily routines and increasing exercise and play times, will help to elevate both you and your pet’s mood.
Try Pet Sitting. This way you are helping other people and their pets without feeling like you are replacing yours - PetCloud has a few Pet Sitters who became a Pet Sitter for this very reason, so you aren’t alone. www.petcloud.com.au/signup