A Pet is a Family
A pet is a member of the family. The term mans best friend
brings to mind unconditional love, constant companionship and acceptance.
And Why Shouldnt it? Your pet can take you for a walk, listen when
you need someone to talk to or even guard your house. A pet can also lower
your blood pressure, change your heart rate or alleviate feelings of chronic
loneliness. With this capacity to love your pet, comes the necessity to
grieve when that best friend dies. The death of a pet is,
without a doubt, a traumatic experience.
A Pets Death
No, its not just a dog or just a cat. The animal
is a family member. With the death of a pet the family experiences a very
great loss. A difficult problem, however, is that society often denies
you the need to grieve for your pet. You may even be chastised for openly
and honestly expressing your feelings. As a result, you may bury, hide
or even try to ignore your grief. This is not good, grief should be expressed.
Although denied understanding and support, your family needs to grieve
the death of your pet. Grieving means to express your feelings, no matter
how painful, outside of yourselves.
Dont Help You Heal
Your family will probably be greeted with many clichés when your
pet dies. Clichés are trite comments intended to diminish the loss
by providing simple solutions to difficult realities. Comments like, It
was just a dog, or You can always get another one. Or
Be glad you dont have to take care of him anymore are
not constructive. Instead they hurt and make your familys journey
through grief more difficult.
Memories are Very Helpful
Memories are one of the best legacies after the death of a pet. Talk about
and embrace these memories. Your pet entertained, comforted, frustrated
and always loved you. Remember those times. If your memories bring laughter,
smile. If they bring sadness, cry. Remember, though, memories made in
love can never be taken away.
Your Emotions Will
Be Very Mixed
When your pet dies, you will probably experience a variety of emotions:
confusion, disorganization, sadness, explosive emotions or guilt. Dont
repress these feelings and ignore anyone who tells you that you should.
Dont over-analyze your response. Just allow your feelings to find
expression. As strange as some of these feelings may seem, they are normal
and healthy. Each Family member probably had a unique relationship with
the pet. Allow for different emotional responses within the family, and
be careful to respect each persons need to grieve in his or her
Should You Choose
When you love your pet, no question is more difficult than whether or
not to euthanize. Yet this difficult choice is often the right one, particularly
if your pet is in agonizing pain or the quality of life has deteriorated.
Talk to your veterinarian about euthanasia. Fortunately, humane procedures
can end needless suffering for both you and your pet. The intravenous
drug used for euthanasia does not cause pain. After visiting with your
vet, make your decision based on your own good judgment. If you have always
treated your pet with gentleness and love, you will make a wise choice
based upon reality. Some owners want to be present when their pets are
euthanized. Some do not. Do what you feel is right for you and the family.
Whichever choice you make, you may still want to spend some special time
saying good-bye to your pet.
Rituals Can Be
Allowing and encouraging your family to have a funeral for the pet can
be helpful. It provides a time to acknowledge the loss, share memories
of the pet and create a focus for the family to openly express emotions.
While some friends or even family members may think having a funeral for
your pet is foolish, dont let them take this special time away.
Design a ritual that best meets your needs as you gather to pay tribute
to your pet who was and always ill be loved.
Children Need to
The death of a pet is often the first opportunity parents have to help
children during times of grief. Unfortunately, parents often dont
want to talk about the death assuming that by doing so the children will
be spared some of the pain and sadness. Children, however, are entitled
to grieve for their pets. Any child old enough to love is old enough to
grieve. Many children love their pets with all their hearts. To them their
pet is their best friend. They need to grieve
Can Cause Problems
The temptation after the death of a pet may be to run out and get another
one right away. In fact, you are often encouraged by family and friends.
Although it may sound like a good idea, you should be careful about premature
replacement. You need some time to grieve and to heal when your pet dies.
A new pet demands your energy and attention which at some point you may
be ready and willing to give. Right now, however, you should first attend
to your grief. Be especially careful about premature replacement of pets
with children. It sends a message to a child that says when something
is lost all that you have to do is buy another one. In reality, that is
often not the case. It also devalues the significance of the pet that
just died. While there is no specific timetable for when to get a new
pet, when in doubt - wait. Allow an additional healing to occur. When
the family is ready for a new pet, involve the children in the discussion
and selection. You will know when it is time for another pet. Follow your