Are you a child or young person whose pet has died or gone missing? You may have lots of questions about what has happened and your thoughts and feelings.
We’ve put together some pet loss information that we hope will give you some answers.
Why do pets die?
Pets, like people, die when they are very old, very sick or because of an accident that stops their body (including their heart and brain) from being able to work anymore.
Sadly, most pets don’t live as long as humans. This means that when we welcome them into our families, we know there will come a day that they die and we will have to say goodbye.
What is bereavement?
Bereavement means losing someone through death. It could be a person or a pet – anyone who is important to you.
Here on The Ralph Site, we support people when their pet has died.
Is bereavement the same as grief?
Bereavement and grief are slightly different but they also have lots in common.
The best way to explain it is that grief is a response to any kind of loss. You might feel grief about moving to a new house or a new school and leaving your old one.
When you experience a bereavement, you feel grief that’s been caused by someone you care about dying.
What does bereavement or pet loss grief feel like?
People often think of grief as feeling very sad all the time but it isn’t really like that.
Grief can make us have all sorts of feelings. We can feel sad, angry, guilty, worried, shocked or relieved, bouncing from one feeling to another. You might wake up feeling OK and then suddenly feel very angry or like crying later in the day.
You may even feel numb, which means you find it hard to feel anything at all.
You can be grieving but feel happy sometimes. It doesn’t mean you don’t care.
Grief can make you feel tired or like you don’t want to do the things you normally enjoy. Even talking to your friends or doing your schoolwork can feel too hard.
You might want to talk about your pet all the time or you might want to keep busy so you don’t have time to think.
We can also feel grief in our bodies. You may get aches and pains (perhaps a stomach ache or headache) or find it hard to sleep.
You might want to eat more or less or feel butterflies in your tummy, like when you’re nervous.
These physical symptoms will go away with time.
There is no “right” way to feel when a pet dies. Everyone experiences grief differently.
Will other people understand how you feel?
Some people will understand how you feel. Other people won’t.
A hard part about losing your pet is that people outside of your family may not understand or know how much you loved them.
Even people in the same family can feel grief about losing a pet differently.
Some people don’t have pets so they don’t know how awful it can feel when a pet dies.
You might be worried about how upset you feel about your pet dying. Some people say they feel “silly” for being so sad. But it
isn’t silly to be upset about losing someone who was your friend and who loved you.
It’s OK to feel grief.
What can help you to feel better?
It can help to talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. This might be a teacher, a grown-up or some of your friends.
If people know what you’re going through, they are more likely to be kind and understand if you act differently to normal.
When a person dies, we say goodbye to them by having a funeral but that isn’t always possible with a pet.
You might find it helps to do something special to remember your pet and how much you loved them. This is called a “memorial” – you can find nine ideas for memorials for your pet here.
Sometimes, it’s easier to write about how we feel than talk about it. You could try writing a letter to your pet and tell them everything you’re thinking about.
How long will it take to feel better?
It’s impossible to say how long you will feel grief about your pet dying.
You will probably always have a piece of you that loves and misses your pet. As time goes on though, you will gradually start to enjoy new things and your life will grow enough that you’ll think about more than your grief.
Feelings can go in circles.
It’s completely normal to have good and bad days for a long time. You might feel like you’ve “got over” feeling angry and then suddenly feel really cross again. You might suddenly burst into tears even though you didn’t realise you were feeling sad.
Don’t worry, that’s a normal part of grieving.
Most people find that things do get easier in the end.
Always remember that you are allowed to laugh and have fun. Your pet loved you very much and would not want you to be sad. When you were happy, it made them happy too.
Is it really OK to talk about grief and about your pet?
Yes, it is!
Sometimes, grief can be a hard thing to talk about. It can also be hard to talk about the pet we miss.
You might be worried that if you talk about your pet, it will upset someone else in your family or make them feel unhappy.
People who know lots about grief say that talking about it can be one of the best ways to feel better. Sharing your memories can make you feel like your pet is still around and can help you to remember all of your favourite things about them.
Definitely tell someone you trust if you want to talk. If you don’t want to talk though, that’s OK too.
What if I can’t stop worrying about death?
When someone we love dies, it can make us think about something bad happening to other people and pets that we love.
If you’re experiencing these worries, it can help to talk to a grown-up you trust. They’ve probably had the same thoughts too at some time in their life.
If you have other pets, remind yourself that they are alive and well. They have lots of living to do and you can help to make every day happy and fun for them. Even when people and animals get sick, most get better. With animals, vets are people who help pets stay healthy.
We are so sorry that your pet has died. You will always remember them and how much you love them. We’re sure they loved you very much too.
We would like to create some more blogs and activities to help children and young people who are grieving a pet. If you can think of anything that you think would be helpful or you would like to know, please ask a grown-up to leave a comment below to let us know.
YOU CAN DOWNLOAD A PDF COPY OF THE CONTENT OF THIS PAGE HERE.