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This wasn’t the post I was going to write today but this morning our family dog passed away. If you’ve ever had a very beloved pet I’m sure you understand how they are more than pets, they are family members. Grief is such an unexpected thing and death seems like it is almost always sudden. It comes out of nowhere and shakes you to your core. This loss has very humbling and reminded me that life doesn’t give a shit about your plans and you never know what is going to happen. Please pet your dogs and hold your family members because none of us are guaranteed more time together. This loss has taught me that life is so delicate and precious. When we’re going about are daily lives it’s hard to remember that we only have a limited time with our loved ones. Honestly, this loss really sucks. Here are some coping mechanisms I will be using to get through it, I hope it will help someone else too.
Talk to Other People
I talked to all of my immediate family on the phone today. It’s important when you’re going through any kind of loss to identify who your support system is. If you’re grieving and need support call a close friend or family member and tell them how you are feeling. The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement offers support groups in many states and the ASCPA has a pet loss hotline (877) GRIEF-10.
Recognize The Stages of Grief
There are five stages of grief that most people experience after a loss. You might go back and forth between a few of these stages and that is totally normal.
- Denial: Denial is a defense mechanism we use to keep ourselves from feeling the pain that comes with grief. It’s normal to feel disassociated or like “this isn’t happening”.
- Anger: You may have frustration about not being able to control the situation and it is normal for this frustration to turn to anger. You might be mad at a higher power, friend, family member or even the pet that passed away.
- Bargaining: In this stage you might think “what if” or “if only”. Some people also try to bargain with a higher power.
- Depression: Depression is a normal response to losing an animal you love and care about. You might feel like the sadness will last forever but it’s important to realize it’s a stage of grief and it will pass.
- Acceptance: In the acceptance stage you are able to accept the loss and start to move on with your life.
There’s lots of ways to pay tribute to your pet, some places even have pet cemeteries. You can plant a tree in your pets favorite spot or have a picture of them framed or painted. There are lots of places online that make pet memorials and sell memorial jewelry. If it was a family pet you could have a dinner in tribute to them and share your favorite stories. Spend some time thinking about ways you could memorialize your pet and pick one that feels right to you.
Normalize Your Feelings
It’s normal to feel a range of feelings after losing a pet. You might experience guilt, denial, anger, sadness or depression. Find a way to cope with these feelings and don’t hold them inside. Cry, yell or talk to someone. Holding your feelings in will only make it worse over time. I’m a big fan of self help books so I will also check out the Grief Recovery Handbook for Pet Loss.
The grieving process can’t be rushed and it’s normal for it to take some time. Try to be patient with yourself and go through the stages naturally. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Everyone experiences grief differently and if it is taking you longer it is OK.
Go to Therapy
I have a whole post on going to the damn therapist you can check out. If you’re struggling go to therapy, they are trained to help you. If you’re suffering and you think therapy might help do not hesitate, just go. Yes it will be awkward but it’s worth it if it can help you.
I’ll be taking time to grieve and remember our dog. This experience has reminded me how finite our time is here and none of us are guaranteed a damn thing. It’s created a greater sense of urgency to help more people and cherish the time I have with the people I love. Grief is complicated and painful but the only way out is through.
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