One of the toughest parts about having a pet is knowing the odds of outliving them are in your favor. On the upside, it gives you an opportunity to rescue and love multiple animals throughout your life. But nothing can stop the pain of losing an animal you’ve spent every day with over many years.

Grieving for a pet is hard enough, but it’s especially difficult when you have friends or family members who do not understand the relationship you had with your pet. Despite their good intentions, their misunderstanding can sometimes feel like a lack of support during a time where support is needed. The good news is that there are other forms of support out there that aren’t too difficult to find. It is difficult to not be able to lean on the people we love most, but there are a few other ways to find solace during a painful time.

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Understand It’s Not Personal

For people who have never had a pet in their life or do not interact with animals frequently, it is hard for them to see how special a relationship with an animal can be. While there are many emotions you have to deal with at this time, understand that it’s not their fault. Instead, try to communicate with them in a positive and constructive way how and why your pet meant so much to you. They may not fully understand the relationship you had with your pet, but if they love you, they will listen.

Find a Support Group

While having a loved one listen is nice to have, it’s not the support you need to heal if that person does not understand the pain you are going through. Many area shelters and veterinarian offices offer counseling services and support groups for people grieving over the loss of a pet. Oftentimes, these services are free thanks to donations to the organizations or professionals volunteering their time. Surround yourself with animal lovers who truly understand your loss or who are going through a loss themselves. It’s amazing the bonds you create and support you receive when you are working through grief in a group. There are also a number of other sites (like the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement) just for pet loss that can help you get connected in your state.

Join an Online Community

You would be amazed by the friendships you can form through the internet. There are many animal lovers out there who are happy to connect with like-minded people. Sometimes you just need to send some messages to someone miles away. It can be extremely therapeutic and encouraging to know someone has your back in another city, country or even continent. There are plenty of groups and resources online that offer tips and support to people grieving a pet. Social media, in particular, has made connecting with people that much easier. Take advantage of today’s technology to help you out during a tough time. There are tons of animal-lover groups on Facebook filled with compassionate people. You can also use meetup.com to find a group in your town.

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Call a Hotline

If your friends and family don’t understand your grieving process, there are pet loss support hotlines you can call. These hotlines are hosted by animal-centered organizations and veterinary schools and provide you with trained professionals and veterinary students that understand the pain you are going through. These hotlines are not only available for mourning, but they also provide guidance and support if you are going through with the difficult decision to euthanize your pet. The professionals will talk you through options and help you make the right decision. A decision that is particularly difficult to make if you are going through it on your own.

Find a Way to Honor Your Pet That is Right For You

There are many ways to give a deceased pet a special memorial. Some people choose engraved stones and headpieces, while others keep their pet’s ashes nearby. You can get a frame or wear your pet’s name or initial on a piece of jewelry. Some people even get tattoos in honor of their pets. There is no right way to pick a pet memorial. The important part is that you honor your pet the way you want. Make it something you do just for you and your pet. The thought and time you put into it and the ceremonial aspect of memorials can be very comforting for those who have experienced recent loss.

Your loved ones may not understand the grief you experience when losing a pet, but there are millions of other people who do. Connecting with those animal lovers can give you the support you need that you can’t get from loved ones who do not know what it’s like to have a pet. With the internet, it is easier to find these types of people – whether they are in your town or miles away.

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Image source: S Curtis/Shutterstock