How to Cope with the Loss of a Pet

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_MG_1916It’s perfectly natural to feel sad and even heartbroken if you lose a pet. Pets are often a member of the family so it makes sense that you would feel very unhappy when they are gone.

How do I know if what I am feeling is normal?

Some people feel sad right away and others feel sad later. The grief or sadness that you feel when you lose a pet that is close to you can be complicated. Everyone copes differently. For example, you may feel lonely now that your pet isn’t around or you could feel angry if your pet died suddenly. How you react depends on a lot of things such as how long you had your pet, how the pet died, and how others respond.  Some people may not understand why you are upset and say hurtful things such as, “It’s only an animal” or “Why are you so upset anyway- you can get another pet”.  Try to ignore these comments and remember that your loss is very real and it takes time to heal.

How do I get past the sadness I feel?

Before you can “move on,” you might need time to just “be sad.” You may feel distracted or lost in your own thoughts for a while because it may be hard to think about anything else but the loss of your pet. In the meantime, make sure you eat and get enough sleep and talk to people who understand what you are going through. Many teens that lose a pet find it helpful to write about their feelings in a journal, draw pictures of their pet or create a scrap book, talk to a close friend, and/or create a small garden in or around your home to honor your pet.  All of these activities will help you to hold on to the good times with your pet.

How do I know if I need to see a counselor?

It’s normal to feel sad for a few days. If you feel that your sadness isn’t getting better and it’s hard for you to get back into your normal routine, it’s a good idea to talk to your health care provider or make an appointment with a counselor or therapist. These are professionals who are trained to help people who are grieving learn ways to cope.

How will I know when it’s time to get another pet?

Knowing when to get another pet depends on many factors.  According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), “it is best to wait at least 1 month before bringing home a new pet.” It’s very important for all your family members to grieve the loss of your pet. When the time is right, try to have an open conversation with your parent(s), guardian and siblings about whether or not you are all ready to get another pet or whether to wait. If you can’t come to an agreement, make a plan to talk again in a few weeks.

Whether this is the first time you have experienced the loss of a pet or the second, third or fourth time, your feelings are real!  It’s important to take care of yourself while you feel down and talk to your PCP or a counselor if the sadness doesn’t get better in a few weeks.

Resources:

ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Pet Loss Hotline at: 1-877-GRIEF-10

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief-loss/coping-with-pet-loss.htm