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The Ralph Site - pet loss support

Welcome to The Ralph Site Blog

Hello, and welcome to The Ralph Site Blog.

We celebrate the unique place that pets have in our lives through regular features and practical advice on pet bereavement and other animal-related matters.

Pet loss support

The Ralph Site is a non-profit online pet loss support resource which provides support to pet carers coping with the loss of a beloved companion. There are a website and an active Facebook community with a public page and a private group.

Pet carers’ community

The Ralph Site aims to provide a non-judgmental and supportive place for those pet carers who have lost a much-loved member of the family. We know all too well the pain and heartbreak that accompanies the passing of your pet. And whilst these pets can never be replaced, we may find room to enrich our lives further with others when the time is right.

At The Ralph Site, we understand the special bond between you and your pets.

Thank you for your support.

 

Why celebrity pet loss can help break the stigma of grieving

As we’ve talked about in previous blogs, pet bereavement is seen by many as a disenfranchised grief. People are often afraid of telling their friends and family how much the death of a pet has affected them for fear of not being understood. Non-pet lovers may say, “It was just an animal” or “It’s not the same as a human death”.

Indeed, many people feel that there is still a cultural stigma around grieving for a pet and that they’re expected to “Just get over it”. They may question their own feelings, “Is it normal to be this upset?” or “I know it’s crazy to still be grieving”.

It doesn’t help that, as a society, we’re not very comfortable with the concept of death. In the quest to look younger and live longer, many of us prefer death to be hidden away as much as possible. Pets confront this with their short lives, which can make people uncomfortable.
Loving a pet is also complicated by the fact that we give our animals status within our families, sometimes on a par with children, parents and friends, and yet we can still buy and sell pets like commodities. To the wider society, this commercial aspect of having a pet can make it hard to appreciate the level of grief.

But, if you have loved and lost a pet, you will know that the grief is all too real.

Looking into this topic online, there are several references to a Co-op study (unable to find the source to link to) that found that more than 25% of people felt as devastated at the loss of a pet as at the loss of a close human family member. A further 33% said the grief was the same as losing a good friend. Sixteen percent of people said they were still struggling with their grief more than a year after their bereavement.

As 40% of us have pets in our homes, this is a significant number of people who will face the loss of a much loved animal and the grief that comes with it in the not too distant future.
Fortunately, times are changing. There is a growing recognition of the grief we experience when a pet dies, and this is one area in which the current cult of celebrity may be making a positive difference.

With the growth of social media, many people who live in the public eye are connecting with their audiences via social media pages rather than relying on interviews in newspapers and magazines. This provides a sense of immediacy and often gives us glimpses into the lives of the rich and famous.

As a result, more and more celebrities post details about the animals in their lives and the special bonds they share with them, as well as expressing their profound grief when a pet companion dies.

Back in 2010, former MP Roy Hattersley wrote a heartfelt article about the death of his beloved dog, Buster, saying, “I sat in the first floor room in which I work, watching my neighbours go about their lives, amazed and furious that they were behaving as if it was a normal day. Stop all the clocks. Buster was dead”.

In another piece Lord Hattersley said, “Buster’s death was the most painful thing I had ever experienced, more painful than losing my mother. We were so close. I didn’t put out my mother’s breakfast in the morning or walk her in the evening. She didn’t sleep in a basket in my bedroom. In objective terms, I am sensible enough to put human life above dog life. But one’s affections aren’t objective.”

True Lies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse star, Eliza Dushku, posted about her heartbreak when her wonderful dog, Max Factor, died in August 2014.

Several months later, she shared a post of a retriever pup saying, “I want 1 of u in my life again soon, lil dude. Not ready yet, but maybe soon. Miss my #MaxFactorD desperately. But he’d mos def want me to be a mum again. #dawgs 💛“. It’s a struggle with which many of us can identify.
In January 2015, she brought a new pup, Tanner, into her life with the hope that Max Factor would be ‘shining down’ on them.

American journalist and author, Bob Sullivan, has written a number of poignant articles about the death of his dog, Lucky, and his subsequent decision to adopt rescue pup, Rusty. One that really stands out is when he talks about feeling invisible after Lucky died – we’ve talked about loss of routine here on The Ralph Site blog too.

Bob Sullivan even created a memorial Facebook page called So Lucky to reach out to people on social media during and after his time of profound grief. From the comments on the page, it’s clear that many people welcomed a platform to provide and receive support following their own pet bereavement.

In 2017, Tom Hardy’s emotional tribute to his rescue dog, Woody, made headlines throughout the world and invited hundreds of thousands of comments of support from pet carers who understood the depth of his loss. You can read it in full here.

It struck such a chord with people that, if you do a search on Google for ‘Tom Hardy Woody tribute’, you get almost a million search results to choose from! It was as though, if a man known for ‘tough guy’ roles such as the Kray twins, could express his grief in such an open and raw way then other people could talk about it too.

Other celebrities have shared their pet bereavement with audiences too.

A tearful Holly Willoughby spoke on This Morning about how her cat, Roxy, had passed away in her sleep unexpectedly and how telling her children was one of the hardest things she had ever had to do.

It is very hard to read Sue Perkins’ open letter to her beloved Beagle, Pickles, without shedding a tear. It truly does encapsulate what makes a pet so special – the unique, exclusive relationships we have with them.

There are some who say that celebrities shouldn’t share every detail of their lives online, that some things should be private, but I think celebrity pet bereavement – as unbearably sad as it is – can help us to break down the taboos and stigmas associated with grieving for an animal.
It can show that everyone hurts and no one is immune to loss.

When people with public influence are unafraid to talk about pet loss, it brings everyone into the conversation. It may even make people who aren’t animal lovers more aware that pet bereavement is as real as any other form of grief.

It is wonderful to see something positive come out of something terrible, and for pet carers to know that they’re not alone.

Until next time, Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

How to help a grieving pet

The death of a pet can herald a challenging time when you’re trying to anticipate everyone’s needs and emotions. As well as your own grief, your children may need support or you could have a partner who shares your overwhelming sense of loss.

For many people, another consideration is the well-being of a grieving pet.

How can you help them? Is there anything, in particular, they need from you? Is their grief impacting on their health in some way?

These are all common concerns.

How to tell if your pet is grieving

Animals express grief in different ways and it seems to have a varying impact, depending on the species and individual nature of the pet.

Across species that pine for their companions, signs of grief include:

  • Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping more than usual or disturbed sleep)
  • Changes in eating habits (typically eating less)
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Reluctance to be alone
  • Wandering the house or their enclosure searching for their lost friend

If you have a surviving pet who’s showing any of the above changes in behaviour, they may well share your grief for their lost companion.

Tips to help your grieving pet

If you do feel that a surviving pet is grieving, there are a number of ways that you may be able to help them cope:

Watch your pet closely

When an animal has lost a companion, it’s important to monitor their health and behaviour closely. Given time, many animals – like humans – find a new rhythm to life and begin to move forward.

However, there are some cases where changes in behaviour due to bereavement should be taken very seriously.

One example is with herd animals like guinea pigs. These vocal but gentle little creatures tend to thrive in company, showing social behaviour in pairs or small groups that you may not see when they live alone.

Guinea pigs tend to form a close bond with their companions and may become depressed, disinterested in life and lose their appetites when a cage mate passes away. Because they have such fast metabolisms, just a short space of time without eating can have catastrophic consequences for the remaining guinea pig.

If you do notice that a bereaved guinea pig has stopped eating, you may need to see your vet straight away for advice or liquid food that can be syringe-fed.

Of course, you should always consult your vet immediately if your departed pet died of a contagious illness that could affect his or her surviving companions.

Stick to your usual routines

Although you may feel like you need some downtime following the loss of a pet, it’s important to try to stick to your usual daily routines as much as possible.

With so much having suddenly changed in their life, your surviving pet will benefit from the predictability of keeping to their normal routine. You may even find that it helps you too.

Even if your pet has lost their appetite, try to stick to their usual mealtimes to remind them to eat and to ensure food is available.

If your pet is still refusing to eat after a few days, you should seek veterinary advice.

Ignore unwanted behaviour

It can be heart-breaking to watch a bereaved dog cry at the door or window for their lost friend but you should think twice before rushing into comfort them as you may inadvertently reinforce the behaviour.

Instead, try to offer comfort to your dog when they’re quiet and laying down or cuddling up with you.

Build positive activities into your day

Your surviving pet(s) may need reminding about the good things in life. Positive activities such as walks, games and puzzles, and training activities with plenty of treats may help.

Lots of cuddles and interaction will help bereaved cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and other small animals feel like they still have companionship. You may even want to give them a soft toy to cuddle up to for comfort.

Let your surviving pets work out their new social structure

If you live in a multi-pet household, the death of one animal can impact on the whole hierarchy/social structure of your surviving pets. You may find that there are some skirmishes and disagreements as your animals regroup and figure out where they now sit in the social order of their group. Unless there’s a risk of one of them getting hurt, it’s usually fine to step back and let them sort it out amongst themselves.

Be open to your surviving pet’s attention

If you are struggling with your own feelings of grief, you may feel like you want to close yourself off from future hurt. Many pet carers see their surviving pets in a different light – that one day they will feel the same agony over losing them – and this can make people want to withdraw.

However, pets can sense this change in your mood. If you seem sad all the time, they may want to comfort you and become clingy, wanting the reassurance that everything will be okay. They may also misbehave as an expression of their anxiety and double loss (their friend and now you).

It can be incredibly hard but it’s important to be open to your surviving pet’s love and affection. It will help you as well as them – animals have a rare gift of making the world better just by existing.

Give your pet time

Just as you need time to mourn your loss, your surviving pet may need time too. Anecdotal evidence suggests that animals such as dogs and cats remember and miss their past friends for some time. As helpless as it may make you feel, all you can do is provide a loving and secure environment in which to grieve.

Be aware of projecting your own feelings

It’s tempting to view your surviving pet through the lens of grief, seeing sadness in every pose and facial expression. However, in some cases, pets aren’t strongly affected by grief or experience their grief but gently move through it. It’s important not to project your own feelings and not to be hurt if your pet doesn’t appear as devastated as you thought they would.

Beware of being overprotective

If your deceased pet died in sudden or traumatic circumstances, you may feel protective of your surviving pets, wanting to shield them from harm against all costs.

While this is completely understandable, it’s important to think about their quality of life and mental wellbeing. For example, is it reasonable to always keep your surviving dog on their lead in the park because your other dog ran out in front of a car outside your house?

Should you let your surviving pet(s) see their deceased companion?

Although it isn’t always possible for surviving pets to spend some time with their deceased companion, many people feel it is advisable in some cases if circumstances allow it.

With rabbits, for example, many experienced carers feel that a rabbit should be given between three and six hours alone with the body of their companion. At first, the surviving rabbit may try to rouse its fallen friend but, as the hours pass, people often notice a shift in the surviving rabbit’s demeanour as they realise their companion isn’t truly present.

Guinea pigs benefit from seeing their deceased cage mates too. They may push, lick and even gently nip at a friend that has died but only in an attempt to wake them. With time, they begin to realise that their companion isn’t moving and seem to feel less distressed when the body is removed from their habitat.

People with several dogs often like to give the remaining canines the opportunity to see their deceased companion, feeling that it’s helpful. Other dogs take comfort from being able to sniff their lost friend’s bed or favourite blanket.

Should you get a new pet?

This is a question that a lot of pet carers wrestle with, especially if they have a surviving pet who isn’t used to be the only animal in the house.

However, this can be a very emotional decision. If you are thinking about a new pet, you may feel guilty that you’re trying to ‘replace’ the one that has died.

You may feel too emotionally drained to bring a new pet into the house.

For dogs and cats, it can often be very stressful to introduce a new companion immediately following a bereavement. A new puppy, for example, may be too hyperactive for a grieving older dog to deal with while they’re feeling low and vulnerable.

There is no right or wrong answer but it’s important that you feel ready to bring another pet into your home before you do.

There are some exceptions though. Going back to guinea pigs, many need a new companion as soon as possible for their emotional wellbeing. Guinea pigs can go downhill quickly following the death of their bonded friend. They live in the moment and do not always do well alone.

Again, only you will know what’s right for your animal. Some guinea pigs, like other species, cope fine alone but many need a new friend straightaway and long before you might feel emotionally ready.

In these more extreme ‘life and death’ cases, you may feel you have to put the needs of your pet before your own. You may not feel a bond straightaway but, as you discover your new pet’s personality, you’ll probably find a love just for them that doesn’t diminish what you felt for your past pet.

If you need support with pet bereavement or any of the issues discussed in this article, you might find it helpful to reach out to a pet bereavement counsellor. There are always lots of friendly and understanding people in The Ralph Site’s private Facebook group too.

As always, know that you are not alone.

Until next time, very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

 

 

Living with Complicated Grief

What is complicated grief?

Losing a loved one changes us and our lives forever. Grief puts a strain on normal life and it usually takes a long time to start to adapt to life without them. Even then there may be days where we feel like we did in the early days, this overwhelms us but we gradually learn to cope and bounce back.

When these intense emotions feel constant and continue for a long time grief can become complicated. We may feel stuck and find it difficult to work out what we need to do to cope. Some people cope by closing off from their feelings. Giving ourselves time to retreat can be a healthy way to adjust to changed circumstances but if this happens for an extended period it may lead people to withdraw from daily life and become isolated. Complicated grief can upset our lives by affecting our ability to carry out daily tasks, communicate, look after ourselves and this can lead to ill health.

What causes complicated grief?

One thing is sure, complicated grief isn’t a choice. It’s due to a combination of difficult circumstances which leave us unable to accept and come to terms with our loss.

Complicated grief happens when something stops the natural healing process from helping us to adjust to our changed world. This can include the circumstances of the loss, your relationship with your loved one, your personality, other losses at an early age, lack of support and mental health conditions can also make grief harder to cope with. But sometimes there is no obvious cause.

How do you know if you’re experiencing complicated grief?

The symptoms include:

  • feeling extreme loneliness
  • intense longing and constant thoughts of your loved one
  • feeling that you could have done something to prevent your loss
  • bitterness or anger about your loss
  • problems trusting other people since your loss
  • feeling that life has lost its meaning or that a part of you died with your loved one
  • being unable to accept your loss, or to be able to imagine or adjust to life without your loved one
  • feeling stuck in your grief with no relief from your pain – as though time stopped when you lost your loved one.

Grief has no timetable but if you feel unable to function or feel any joy six months to a year after your loss it might be time to seek help.

What can you do if you feel this way?

There are various things we can to help restore the natural healing process of grief. Our feelings aren’t constant so different things may be helpful at different times.

  • If grief feels endless seek professional help from someone who understands complicated grief. They can help you to look at how you’ve reacted to your loss and help you to find ways to come to terms with your loss.
  • Find a bereavement group – There may be one in your local community or at a local church.
  • Write about your loss and grief or keep a grief diary. This can give you an outlet for your grief and if you’re finding something difficult to write about may help you identify conflicts between the way you’re thinking and the painful reality of what you’re having to deal with.
  • Lean on family and friends for support
  • Take the time you need to grieve.
  • Take care of yourself – be kind to yourself.
  • Try mindfulness – this may help you to manage intense emotions, process your grief and deal with your loss.
  • Let your Doctor know how you’re feeling. If they know you’re finding it hard to cope they may be able to help you obtain more support.

In the UK The Blue Cross offers a pet bereavement support service. You can call them or contact them using the online form.

Remember, you’re never alone, your friends at the Ralph Site are all here for you.

Resources

There is a lot of information available to help people who are suffering complicated grief including books and articles, websites, support groups and therapists. A selection of these are listed below and there are many others.

Therapists

If you would like to find a therapist to help you please find the regulatory body governing therapists where you are and search their register for a therapist with experience of helping people with complicated grief.

You can call and speak with them before you arrange an appointment and find out what their approach is, if they think they can help you and if you like the sound of them. If you don’t like a particular therapist or their approach try another, there are many types of therapy and you need to find the one that works best for you.

Books, articles and downloads

Living with complicated grief – Professor Craig A. White, Sheldon Press, 2013

The other side of complicated grief – Rhonda O’Neill

Scientific American – Shades of grief

Mindfulness for prolonged grief: a guide to healing after loss when depression, anxiety and anger won’t go away – Sameet M. Kumar

Websites

Cruse Bereavement Care – About complicated grief

The Other Side of Complicated Grief

The Center for Complicated Grief

Psycom – Complicated Grief self-assessment test

Facebook

The Ralph Site private group

The other side of complicated grief page

Center for Complicated Grief page

A hidden sorrow: experiencing pet bereavement as a disenfranchised grief

‘Disenfranchised grief’ is a term used to describe grief that isn’t fully or sometimes even partly acknowledged by society. There are several types of grief that fall into this category: the death of a friend, a miscarriage, giving up a child for adoption, and the death of an ex-spouse are just a few examples.

Pet loss is often experienced as a disenfranchised grief too.

An unseen pain

If you’ve recently lost a precious pet, you may feel that your own grief is not being recognised in the way it would be if a human family member had passed away. Or if a loved one has recently lost a pet, they may be struggling with this hidden sorrow right now.

This can be incredibly upsetting.

Many pet carers feel isolated and unheard at a time when they need support to cope with their loss.

As we’ve talked about in past blogs, pet loss can have a huge impact on your routines including the friendships you’ve built up around your lost companion. The end of a pet’s life may be far-reaching in terms of how it changes your own life.

Pet carers can even feel disenfranchised within the animal-loving community. For example, people who’ve lost a young pet in traumatic circumstances can be unintentionally dismissive of the pain of losing a very old animal – “They had a long life and it was to be expected”. Or dog and cat lovers may struggle to understand someone who is grieving for a small pet such as their rabbit, hamster, snake or cockatiel.

It can be a difficult arena to navigate, especially as everyone brings their own experiences to the table!

The challenges of disenfranchised grief

Research has shown that disenfranchised grief often results in complications that aren’t present during other more socially recognised times of grief.

You may feel more depressed or angry because you don’t feel able or ‘allowed’ to express your emotions about your loss.

You may not have been through the rituals and ceremonies usually associated with a bereavement. Milestones such as funerals are built into the grieving process for emotional reasons, rather than just the practical ‘disposal’ (to use a brutal term) of the physical body, but we often skip them with animals.

The rituals and ceremonies we have around death are about acknowledging the importance of the life of the deceased. They’re a way of saying goodbye and remembering the being who will no longer have a physical presence in our lives.

Of course, this doesn’t guarantee closure but it is a way of telling the world that the deceased mattered. And that your relationship with the deceased was important to you.
People sometimes feel that they have to say goodbye to their pets alone and without the support of their wider community.

Knowing this, it makes sense that disenfranchised grief is sometimes described as ‘paradoxical’. It’s intensified because of the issues mentioned above and yet made smaller by society.

Coping with our own pain

If you are reading this article because you have lost a beloved pet, there are steps you can take to help you go through this difficult journey, even if it feels like our wider society doesn’t recognise your loss.

1. Acknowledge that your love for your lost pet is true, valid and significant – Your pet mattered to you and your grief is real.

2. Remind yourself that you are allowed to grieve – When we lose someone or something we love in life, it’s OK to ask for time and space to grieve their passing.

3. Create your own rituals – A growing number of pet crematoriums are offering pet lovers the opportunity to say goodbye to their pets and to keep special mementoes such as paw prints or locks of hair. With or without this option, you may find it helpful to create your own memorials and rituals for your pet.

4. Reach out to your support network – Your friends and family may not realise how much you’re suffering right now. By asking for support, you may find that it comes from someone within your circle who has been through their own pet loss.

5. Look for ways to express your grief – Even if you feel you can’t share your grief with your wider network, many people find it helpful to write about their pets, create photo books, draw or paint, or create in some way.

6. Know that you’re not alone – I created The Ralph Site in memory of my cat, Ralph. Very quickly, people started coming forward to share their own experiences of pet bereavement and to give and receive comfort. It confirmed what I had always known – that we pet carers are not alone in the love and grief we feel. We are a community. People are always there to listen on The Ralph Site’s Facebook page and in the private Facebook pet loss support group.

How we can help others deal with disenfranchised grief

There are steps we can take to support others during their time of grief and to model a better way for how society approaches pet loss.

• Be sensitive to another person’s loss

Whatever the cause of a person’s grief, it’s not really for any of us to judge how ‘real’ or ‘appropriate’ it is. People feel what they feel. Love is love and loss is loss. We might not share the same feelings but empathy lets us recognise and understand when another person is suffering.

We must also be careful to acknowledge that, even if we’ve experienced a similar loss, other people’s grief won’t automatically look the same as our own.

• Provide validation

Validation is about letting someone know that their feelings count. Again, we don’t have to share the same feelings but it can be hugely healing to let someone know that we see their pain and understand that they have lost someone very special to them.

• Name their feelings

With disenfranchised grief, people often feel that they aren’t allowed to express their emotions. And yet naming your feelings is one of the first steps towards recognising emotions and dealing with them.

It’s important to acknowledge that there is no such thing as good or bad feelings. Grief can take us through every emotion from shock and denial to anger, guilt and fear or sadness, relief and release. There is no order to what we feel and no right or wrong thoughts.

If you know someone who has lost a pet, they might find it helpful if you give them the opportunity to name their feelings.

• Recognise that grief is a journey

Whatever or whoever the cause of someone’s grief, the bereaved will find themselves on a rollercoaster of a journey that has no set timeline.

People often expect that the journey will end at a definitive point with a feeling of detachment from the loss and closure. In reality, this is rarely the case.

Instead, people find that their feelings soften with time and they learn to live a new life born out of their loss.

Grieving serves multiple purposes. It lets us acknowledge the loss, express our emotions, adjust to a changed life, relocate the loss to a more manageable space in our minds, and adjust our philosophical beliefs.

It is important to understand that grief doesn’t stick to a schedule and to be open-hearted about the highs and lows the bereaved may go through even years after their loss.

And always remind someone who is grieving that they are not alone.

Until next time, very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

Coming to terms with the sudden and unexpected loss of a pet

Although all pet loss is traumatic, it can be especially hard to cope with when the death of your pet is sudden and unexpected. Tragic accidents such as being hit by a car or attacked by another animal, or a fatal stroke or seizure out of the blue can be almost impossible to accept.

People often talk about grief as a time for finding closure but, when a death is sudden and has occurred in traumatic circumstances, it can be very hard to find peace.

If you have recently lost a pet and it was unexpected, you may feel that life is very unfair. There’s a sense that your companion’s life was unjustly cut short – a life half-lived – with all of that wonderful potential extinguished in a moment.

These are natural, completely understandable feelings.

Symptoms of shock

Sudden and unexpected pet loss can cause pet carers to exhibit physical and emotional symptoms of shock. If your bereavement has just happened – or you’re reading this on behalf of someone it’s just happened to – you may find yourself shaking, experiencing palpitations, headaches, stomach aches, sleeplessness and more.

Some people even show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is defined as ‘recurring memories and a heightened state of arousal that lingers for more than a month after a traumatic event’. You don’t even have to have witnessed your pet’s passing to feel traumatised. Sometimes not having been there can be just as painful.

Even without symptoms of shock, you may find that you’re experiencing repetitive thoughts, a loss of appetite, guilt, anger, sadness, and that it might be hard to function at the moment.
Again, these feelings are to be expected.

Making sense where there is none

As we discussed in a previous article about pet loss guilt, repetitive thoughts and blaming yourself or others for your pet’s passing are usually a way of making sense of what has happened.

In the case of a sudden and traumatic death, you may feel that you could have done more to stop it happening. It is also devastating to not have a chance to say goodbye.
If you are struggling with these feelings, there are few exercises you can try that you may find helpful.

1. Break down the event

Sadly, accidents and unexpected illnesses can happen. Animals – just like humans – can die long before their time. Guilt and blame are about trying to understand what has happened and why.
If you’re stuck in a cycle of repetitive thoughts, try breaking down the event that lead to your pet’s passing. The aim is to see your role in the event within a larger context.

For example, if your cat ran into the path of a car because a sound frightened it, ask yourself:

  • Did you make the sound that frightened your cat?
  • Were you able to prevent the sound?
  • Could you control the direction your cat ran in?
  • Did you have control over the car driver, including what time they left their house and the route they were taking?
  • Did you have any control over the injuries your pet sustained?
  • When you let your cat out, did you intend to do harm?
  • Can you see into the future?

In most cases, the answers to these questions will be ‘no’. If you had the power to change what happened, you would have done.

Please remember that you did not wish harm on your pet – you loved them and they had a beautiful life with you.

2. Think about quality of life

Right now, you may be telling yourself that you shouldn’t have let your cat out or taken your dog for a walk or put your rabbit in their outdoor run (whatever the circumstances around your pet’s death).

However, it’s important to think about your motivation. You did these things to enhance your pet’s quality of life.

The only way to completely protect a pet from external harm is to keep it shut in a padded room away from all danger. But would that give any quality of life?

And what about the internal harms that we can’t control such as heart disease, cancers or epilepsy? Nothing can protect a pet from these hidden dangers.

It helps to remember that animals live in the moment – they don’t measure time the way we humans do and they don’t worry about the future or their mortality. During the life your precious pet lived, they were loved and happy. Maybe it isn’t the quantity of a life that really matters but the quality of the life.

3. Honour your pet’s life

As we mentioned above, one of the worst parts about losing a pet unexpectedly is the feeling of a life unfinished. You have probably always imagined your pet growing old with you and years of companionship together.

One exercise that can help with these feelings is to write a letter to your pet, telling them about the life you had hoped for them. You could also write about the special memories you shared and the big impact they made on your life, even if you only had a short time together.

Some people find it helpful to talk to their lost pet or to memorialise them in some way. You could create a photo book of their life or a special site to visit and remember them.
Hopefully, you have supportive friends and family around you who will be happy to hear about your pet’s life rather than focusing on the events that led to their death. If you do need extra support, there are some excellent pet bereavement services.

Many people on The Ralph Site’s Facebook page and in the private Facebook group have experienced a traumatic loss too and can offer a sympathetic ear.

The main thing is to celebrate the life your pet lived and their unique personality. Instead of letting their story be about ‘the animal that died a tragic death’, tell the story of the animal that loved their belly tickled or had a favourite toy or who made people laugh with their funny quirks.

And always know that you are not alone.

Until next time, very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support