For many of us, a pet is not just a dog or cat but an integral part of the family dynamic. And when the animal provides some type of service, like a seeing-eye dog, the bond may go even deeper. When pets pass away, you may experience a significant, and even traumatic, sense of loss. Many factors play a part in how the grief presents itself, including age—both of the person and the pet—and the circumstances around the death.

Everyone’s different. The way in which a family member copes with the loss of a pet is going to be completely different than another person grieving for the very same furry friend. The grief process can’t be forced or hurried; it happens on its own timetable, but there are some things you can do to gain some relief.

Express your grief. Journal about it, or talk to a compassionate comrade. If your family or friends love pets, they’ll understand what you’re going through. Denial of grief doesn’t make it go away.

Create a ceremony. Funerals are not just for humans. They can provide closure and a sense of healing. Similarly, a celebration of life to honor the pet might be fitting. Consider planting a tree, creating a scrapbook or donating to the local shelter in your pet’s name.

Rest. Eat healthy. Stick with your exercise program. This will help keep your energy level up and those feel good chemicals flowing in your brain.

Grieving the loss of a pet is a highly personal and individual experience. Gradually the emotions of loss, sadness, anger or depression will start to subside. Our animals love us for who we are with no expectations, and it’s hard to say goodbye to that type of unconditional love. But with time and patience, those feelings will settle and maybe you’ll find yourself open to new animal relationships again.

I Loved You Best

So this is where we part, My Friend,
and you’ll run on, around the bend,
gone from sight, but not from mind,
new pleasures there you’ll surely find.
I will go on, I’ll find the strength,
life measures quality, not its length.
One long embrace before you leave,
share one last look, before I grieve.
There are others, that much is true,
but they be they, and they aren’t you.
And I, fair, impartial, or so I thought,
will remember well all you’ve taught.
Your place I’ll hold, you will be missed,
the fur I stroked, the nose I kissed.
And as you journey to your final rest,
take with you this…I loved you best.

~ Copyright © Jim Willis 2002, All Rights Reserved