The death of a pet can be an incredibly sad and upsetting experience. Many pet owners build strong emotional bonds with their pets, so when this bond is broken, the feeling of grief and pain of loss can be devastating yet completely natural. Pets are often seen as another member of the family so the gap they leave behind is felt by all. In fact, the grieving process is really no different to that experienced with human loss: shock, denial, emotional pain and eventual acceptance.
Talking about your loss
Being able to talk about your loss with family and friends can be difficult but it can really help with the grieving process. However for some people this is not always possible.
The Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service on 0800 096 6606 is manned by dedicated and trained volunteers and allows you to talk to someone who understands what you’re going through.
They offer confidential support, understanding and practical information. The support line is available from 8.30am to 8.30pm every day. All landline calls to the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service are free and confidential.There are a number of books and websites that may help you with the grieving process. Many are written by pet owners who have been through exactly what you are going through now and their experiences and advice may offer some comfort to you. Some of these sites are listed below.
Children and the loss of a pet
It’s important to be honest with children when it comes to discussing the loss of a pet. If your pet had to be euthanised, it may seem easier to say the pet was ‘put to sleep’. Do make sure that they understand that this is not the same as ordinary sleeping. They need to know that the pet has not simply gone away as they may consider they are to blame for it leaving and fret about its return, but they need to understand that it won’t return.
It can however be comforting for them to realise that the pet is no longer suffering in pain. Children need to grieve in their own way, just like adults. There is nothing wrong with them crying about the loss of their pet as it is better to let it all out rather than let the sadness build up inside.
Many people choose to bury their pet or scatter the ashes in the back garden. This can give some people a feeling of comfort that their pet is still close by. Planting a tree where they are buried can act as a natural memorial to your pet.
Where a home burial is simply not possible or you would prefer something more formal, you may want to consider a cemetery burial. There are a growing number of pet cemeteries in the UK to choose from, many offering green burials. A cemetery burial may be a better choice if you are likely to move to a new property in the future but still want somewhere that you can visit and remember your pet.
If you would prefer your pet to be cremated then there may be facilities for the ashes to be stored and displayed permanently at the cemetery.
A memorial can be a lovely way to commemorate the life of your pet and there are many types and designs available to choose from. These can include benches, headstones, urns and ornaments. There are many online suppliers but some pet cemeteries will also be able to help you with choosing a memorial. There are also websites that allow you to create online memorials, which may be a nice way to share the memory with family and friends in different parts of the world.