Before you experienced pet loss grief for the first time, it was probably something you hadn’t thought about much.
Why would you?
No-one wants to think about how a relationship will end when it’s in full swing.
When you bring a pet into your home, there’s the first rush of love and excitement – the getting to know you phase – before you settle into the rhythms and routines of everyday life.
Then, one day, pet loss and grief take centre stage, either completely out of the blue or as a slow, creeping presence that you realise is edging nearer.
However it comes, your bereavement can turn your world upside down.
In this week’s blog, we’ve put together a list of 45 things we wish we’d known about pet loss grief before it happened:
- No matter how prepared you think you are, you’re never ready for the death and loss of a loved animal friend
- You can wish for the ‘perfect’ death for your pet but sometimes death will have other ideas – that isn’t your fault
- Everyone grieves differently – there is no right or wrong way
- Every loss is valid – don’t let anyone tell you that your loss doesn’t matter
- Grief is a journey, not a place to stay
- There is no such thing as closure, only time and a gradual acceptance
- Grief has no timeline – you can’t rush it or ignore it and, in some way, it will stay with you forever
- Pet bereavement is often known as a disenfranchised grief because it’s not widely recognised in our society
- A sudden or traumatic loss can shape your grief – not getting to say goodbye is heart-breaking
- In many ways, every death is sudden
- Bereavement isn’t just caused by death – a missing pet or pet taken due to a relationship break-up can be just as devastating
- Guilt is a common emotion to feel when you’re grieving
- You might feel angry too
- You’re the only person who has a right to say how you feel
- It’s fine to ignore the idea that there are five stages of grief!
- Anticipatory grief means you may start grieving for your pet while they’re still alive, especially if you have a terminally ill or older pet
- You may find it hard to sleep after your pet dies
- Some people experience anxiety or depression following pet loss – help is available
- Your routine may change when your pet dies, especially if they were your only pet – it’s natural to grieve the loss of familiar routines
- “Why?” and “What if?” are impossible questions to answer – the secret is to find a way to accept not knowing (“If only” won’t help you either)
- Grief lasts longer than sympathy
- People often feel awkward about death and may say the ‘wrong’ things by accident – they still care
- Not everyone understands how much losing an animal friend can hurt but there are some wonderful people who do
- If someone offers support, say yes
- Life after euthanasia can be full of conflicting emotions – you’re not alone
- Small pets can be a big loss
- You can’t officially take pet bereavement leave in the UK but there may be ways to have some time off work if you need it
- Some people feel they want a new pet in their life straight away while others don’t feel ready for some time (if ever) – there are still ways to spend time with animals
- If you have other pets, they may grieve too
- You may find memorialising your pet comforting – a way to celebrate their life
- Special days and anniversaries can be hard to deal with
- Grief is like a ball in a box
- “Grief is just love with no place to go.”
- Grief can make you question many things but that isn’t always a bad thing
- Your pet’s last day or the circumstances of their death may play on repeat in your mind for a long time – it won’t always be that way; gradually, happier memories of their life will surface
- You can’t protect children from pet loss grief but you can help them cope
- Sometimes your grief will get worse before it can get better
- Grief can make it terrifying to love another pet because of the fear of facing the same feelings again one day (but remember all the good times that come before bereavement)
- You can’t compare grief or losses, even though people will try as a means to comfort you
- Many people find it helpful to speak to a pet bereavement counsellor or speak to other bereaved pet carers in a forum like The Ralph Site’s Facebook group
- It’s OK to cry
- It’s also OK if you can’t or don’t want to cry
- Life will never go back to how it was before your loss but you will find a new ‘normal’
- Be kind to yourself always
- Nothing will ever change the love you had for your pet
You’re not alone
Whether you lost a pet today or years ago, we hope this list gives you some comfort and serves as a reminder that, however you’re feeling, you’re not alone.
If there’s anything you’d like to add to the list, please leave a comment below.
As always, very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support