Pets are not looked at as “owned animals” by pet parents. They are considered members of the family, an important part of our lives for as many years as we are given together. So, it’s no wonder it can be tough to leave a pet at home while you go away for a weekend, much so that you call whoever is watching your pet in order to “speak” with them over the phone. You miss your buddy and cannot wait to come home to their excited faces.

However, there will come a time when it’s your beloved pet who will have to go away. Not for a weekend or a few days, but indefinitely. Coping with the loss of a pet can be a tremendously heartbreaking experience filled with overwhelming sorrow and grief. The important thing you must remember is that you can take as much time to grieve as you need, be it a month, a year, since the sadness will stay with you for life, you need to learn how to cope with your loss.

Petless folks may not understand why you are so upset and might come off as being insensitive.  After all, to them, it’s not like a person in your family has died, right? Wrong. A dog is not “just a dog” and a cat is not “just a cat,” same goes for all companion pets. They are your family and, when they die, you feel a significant loss.

When the time comes, your mental state of being and your physical health may want to check out on you, but you can’t let this happen. You may not be the only one having to cope with the pet loss. Are there children in your family? What about special needs persons? Was it an elderly parent whose pet has died? Having the knowledge of how to comfort yourself as well as others through the coping process will help everyone to begin to move on, but to never forget the memories.

Reach Out to Others Who Have Been Through it

Join a support group, find others in the community or online who have gone through losing a pet. These are the people who will understand how to comfort you through talking, listening, exchanging stories, and sharing tips for coping.

Take Time to Grieve by Yourself

Everyone grieves differently. You may need more time to grieve — that is perfectly okay — or the emotions you feel are confusing, so take “me time” to just be. Anger, sadness, guilt, denial … normal. Don’t feel guilty for being by yourself a little while, but don’t completely shut out family and friends. Eat healthy, sleep well, and exercise to release endorphins for a boost to your mood.

Contact a Pet Loss Helpline

If you or a family member is having a difficult time coping, don’t just wing it. There are a number of pet loss helplines ready to speak with you, to give the support you need. One Green Planet’s list of national pet loss support hotlines is a great place to start.

It’s Okay to put Their Things Away

Maybe it’s too painful for you to see reminders of your pet. There is absolutely no shame in putting away their bed, toys, food bowls, even photos while you are grieving. Don’t let anyone tell you you are wrong for doing so.

Don’t Forget About Other Pets in Your Household

Surviving pets will also experience grief over the loss of their friend or sibling. They may appear more visibly distressed, sensing your sadness enhances theirs. Do your best to keep playtime and exercise routines with pets to let them know you do love them — you’re just very sad right now.

Don’t Rush to Adopt Another Companion Pet

Give it time. You may think adopting a new pet is best for you to fill that void in your heart, but it won’t at this time. Grieve first, then, again, consider the responsibilities of being a pet parent to a new pet.

Eventually, the negative emotions you are experiencing will fade only to be replaced by positive feelings. You will think about the happy times you shared with your pet and how they made your life so much better because they were in it. From time to time, you will experience heartache, especially when something reminds you of the pet you have lost. It’s natural, that’s a part of what love is.

Image source: Andrew Morrell/Flickr