Losing anyone you love can be devastating. The pain is real and is both physical and emotional. When you lose a pet the pain can be compounded by careless, callous remarks of people who don’t understand just how devastating that loss has been.
If you were grieving the loss of a human companion people would be doing everything in their power to comfort you. They would be extremely understanding about your mood swings and depression. If you are mourning the loss of a pet, though, some people can be quite mocking and cruel. This deliberate, or not deliberate, indifference to your pain only makes your loss of pet grieving process more difficult because you essentially have to do it in private.
While there is nothing that can take away your pain, your grief will lessen as time goes by. You will never forget your wonderful family member, but you will be able to start remembering them without feeling the pain.
Psychologists have identified the five main stages of grief. These stages will apply to any type of grief, including the grief of losing a beloved pet. Understanding what these stages are might give you some comfort in your time of need.
1. Guilt. This sounds odd but it is very common especially if you had to take your pet to the vet and have them put to sleep. It’s easy to beat yourself up and think you should have fed them better food, taken them in for checkups more often, taken them for more walks, etc.
2. Denial. It might be tough to wrap your head around the fact that your pet is gone. It can take some time to get used to your new world. When my beautiful Irish Setter had to be put to sleep after we spent about 12 years together, I found myself getting up early every morning to let her out…this went on for months and every time it was like a punch in the stomach.
3. Anger. This can be manifested as anger at your vet, at your family, or even anger towards the pet you lost. Why did they have to get sick, This is a perfectly normal phase to go through in the grieving process.
4. Depression. This is maybe the most obvious step, after all, you’ve just lost a trusted and loved companion. Your day to day life has been permanently changed. It’s only natural that you’d feel a little adrift.
5. And last, but not least, acceptance. This is the stage where you finally can start to feel happy and hopeful again. You still miss your friend, and always will, but you are able to start to enjoy your life again.
Don’t ever let anyone dictate how long you should spend going through these stages. Every one is different and everyone handles loss of pet grieving differently. Just take as much time as you need and if you feel like you aren’t bouncing back the way you should be, you can always go to a professional counselor for a little extra help.