Our pets are a very special part of our lives. When a beloved pet dies, it causes an overwhelming feeling of sadness and heartbreak for the whole family. Grieving the death of a pet is a different experience for each person, and there is no right or wrong way of doing it.
Grieving is completely normal
Grieving is completely natural and it is certainly nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of. Grieving is how we respond to loss, and it can have various effects on our physical and mental health. It is normal to experience a wide range of feelings when you are grieving the death of a pet. These feelings may include sadness, guilt, anger and denial, and you may also have trouble sleeping. Each person will have his or her own unique way of coping with the death of a pet, and the process will take longer for some than others.
It is important that you are able to recognise and acknowledge when you may require professional help to deal with your grief. If you are experiencing any of the following, you should consider seeking professional help:
- You are unable to carry out day-to-day activities
- You are experiencing relationship problems as a result of the grief
- You are experiencing anxiety or depression
- The feelings associated with your grief last for an extended period
You may find comfort in creating a memorial for your pet, perhaps by putting a special plant or plaque in your garden. You may also wish to hold a funeral or memorial service to give yourself and your family the chance to farewell your beloved pet. Pet cemetery or cremation services can provide guidance and help you and your family decide if this is the right option for you.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing any of these things, that’s perfectly fine. What works for other people may not work for you. Grieving is about discovering how you cope with loss and there is no right or wrong way to go about it.
Talking to children
It can be difficult for children to come to terms with the death of a pet, as they may not understand the situation. In some cases, it may not be appropriate to go into detail about how your pet died. Nevertheless, you should try to answer your children’s questions as honestly as you can. It is important that they understand your pet will not be coming back. If children are under the assumption that their pet has just ‘gone away’, they might blame themselves for the pet’s disappearance while anxiously awaiting its return home.
Who can I talk to?
Grieving the death of a pet can be a very difficult journey, but it is not one that you need to take alone. Talking about your loss with someone you trust may help you feel better about the situation. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a relative or friend, consider contacting a telephone counseling service or a grief support group.
- Lifeline (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) – 13 11 14
- Mensline (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) – 1300 78 99 78
- GriefLine (8am-8pm, 7 days a week) – 1300 845 745
- Kids Helpline (For young people aged 5 to 25, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) -1800 55 1800
- Suicide Helpline (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) – 1300 651 251