Hello, I am Dr. Samantha Brustad, licensed psychologist and owner of Teletherapy-Solutions.com here to talk to you today about how to cope while grieving the loss of a pet. Pet grief is a profoundly difficult experience and can leave pet parents feeling sad and empty. Everyone handles grief differently. Some people find it difficult to share about their feelings, worrying that others will not understand the gravity of the loss, especially if they do not own pets.
Just how long grief lasts varies for everyone. For some, adopting a new pet sooner rather than later can help ease the pain. For others, it takes longer to open up their hearts again. What is important to remember is that it is completely normal to mourn the loss of a pet and there is no single correct way to do so. Read on to learn about my recommendations for those experiencing pet grief and choose what works best for you.
Talk to people you trust about your pain. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, speak to a licensed therapist. I also recommend you learn about grief, including the stages of grief. Knowledge is power, knowing the research can help normalize and validate your pain. It may also help decrease the intensity of your emotions.
Increase Self Care and Self Compassion
Take some time off work, increase self-care activities and set aside time to grieve and process your emotions. You’ll want to do this at regular intervals along your recovery journey. I recommend on a daily basis in the beginning. Suppressing your emotions is not advisable as it may cause physical symptoms (headaches, muscle tension) or may surface as irritability, difficulty concentrating or sleep disturbances.
Memorializing Your Pet
Commemorate your pet’s life by holding a memorial service to give you and your family the chance to say goodbye. Create a legacy by planting a tree or flowers in honor of your pet or create a shadow box with items like a collar or blanket. On your pet’s birthday, honor their memory in a special way.
All in all, pet grief is just as serious as losing a human family member. If you are struggling to cope with a loss of a pet, consider seeking grief counseling from a licensed professional to process through the pain and anxieties. There are also many online communities through social media and forums such as Max’s Healing Hearts Community available to help.
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Samantha Brustad, Psy.D.