Grieving the loss of a pet is complex and painful, as you are grieving the loss of a companion, unconditional love, emotional support, and a significant part of your daily routines. Though this is a difficult time and there is no easy way through it, it’s important to be gentle with yourself. Here are helpful self-care suggestions for working through your grief and sorrow.
Be kind to yourself
These feelings are painful and confusing, and it can be frustrating that you don’t feel like your normal self. Remember to have compassion for yourself, just as you would for a close friend who was going through the same emotions.
You may lose your appetite or have a hard time sleeping, but feel compelled to keep up with the busy day’s to-dos. Take care of yourself as you would another living being by setting aside time to rest and making sure you are eating nutritious food.
Take a walk
Something as simple as getting outside, getting your blood flowing and breathing fresh air can help alleviate some of the sorrow. Rather than staying on the couch or in bed, stuck in your emotions, walking can help you process through them.
Spend time with loved ones
Without company, the absence of a pet can be that much more noticeable and painful. Spend time with friends and family who can help you through the grieving process, whether that involves talking about fond memories of your pet, or partaking in fun activities that can help lighten your spirit.
Turn toward the good
This isn’t about stifling your uncomfortable feelings, but it can be helpful to open your mind to the things around you that are still good. Hobbies, your favorite show, a beautiful painting—whatever “good” means to you. When we’re feeling a lot of pain, it can be hard to remember that we can also feel joy.
Process at your own pace
Some prefer to quickly pack away their late pet’s belongings because they serve as a painful reminder, while others choose to leave them for weeks or months. Some can’t stand the quiet, empty feeling of a home without a pet and want another four-legged family member to love. Others may feel too much pain and guilt at the thought of “replacing” their pet.
There is no “right” way or time. Do what feels best for you when you feel ready.
Memorialize your pet
Plant a tree, frame a special photo, get a special necklace or keychain with your pet’s name on it, or come up with your own memorial for your pet. This special memento will serve as a tribute to your beloved pet for years to come.