15 Jun Saying Goodbye to Your Four Legged Friend
Our pets are an important part of our life so when they die it’s really painful. In the United States, we spend around $72 billion on our pets annually. According to a survey done by TD Ameritrade, Millennials expect to spend more money on their dogs over the course of the pet’s lifetime than they do on their own lifetime health care costs. I’m not a Millennial, but I can totally relate to that estimate! Whether you own a cat or a dog, have kids or not, it’s not unusual to consider your pet a part of your family.
Our pets rely on us for food, shelter, and safety. In return they offer us unconditional love and soothe us when we are anxious and sad. I know my little dog, Dottie, always gets up in my lap if I cry and my cat, Jake, sits close by. They are sensitive to our feelings and actions.
Given all of this, it’s no wonder that it can be really hard when a furry family member dies. It’s becoming more acceptable to acknowledge the grief around a pet dying, however, we can still have judgment around how long is acceptable to grieve the loss of a pet. Or is it even normal at all? In a society that tends to grant just a few bereavement days for the death of a close family member, it’s not overly surprising that we might question our sense of loss when a pet dies.
Depending on your relationship to your pet, they may have accompanied you on trips, on moves, and been present for many other events in your life. Therefore, grief is a totally normal reaction to losing a beloved pet. If a pet has become ill unexpectedly, you may feel shock and anger. This happened to me with 4 of my little guys over the last decade — still shocking and heartbreaking every time.
Below are some ideas to help support you in dealing with your loss. The ideas work for children too.
Coping with Grief:
- Acknowledge your grief – cry if you feel like it.
- Give yourself permission to feel sad, angry, confused, etc…
- Tell both the death story and the life stories to friends or family who understand grief associated with losing a pet.
- Journal about your feelings and memories of your time together.
- If you enjoy creative pursuits, write a poem or short story…blog, draw or paint a picture of your pet, or do a project with photographs.
- Talk to your therapist about your loss and the impact on your life.
- Prepare a memorial for your pet.
For people or pets, the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) are not linear. Give yourself time and patience. It’s so hard and having these little guys in our life is so worth it.
“If you have a dog, you will most likely outlive it; to get a dog is to open yourself to profound joy and, prospectively, to equally profound sadness.”
Kate Murphy, LCSW
Kate Murphy, a therapist in Chamblee, GA, specializes in helping you decrease stress and anxiety. You can live a more balanced, connected, and meaningful life. Kate works with individuals and couples over the age of 18 to support healing, communicating, and experiencing joy more often.