Pets provide unconditional love to their owners. When a pet dies, it can be very hard to cope, says Lucy Wendt, registered veterinary technician in the small animal clinic at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University.
“The affected individual needs to accept the reality of the loss, experience the pain of the loss, adjust to the environment without the pet and withdraw emotional energy from the deceased pet to reinvest that energy in other relationships and activities,” Wendt says.
There are five stages to grief. Those stages include: denial/shock, anger, bargaining/guilt, depression and acceptance/resolution. The order, length and degree of the stages vary with each individual. “You should remember that it is absolutely normal to grieve over the loss of a pet. You need to accept and know that you did everything you could to help your pet,” Wendt says.
If you’re struggling with the loss of a pet, there are support groups, psychologists and hotlines available to help. Visit www.humananimalbondtrust.org, www.aplb.org, www.petloss.com and www.pet-loss.net for more information.
If your pet has passed away and you’re ready to get another one, Wendt recommends making a conscious effort not to replace the deceased pet.
“Your deceased pet is irreplaceable,” Wendt says. “I recommend adopting a different breed and a different sex so that you don’t ever compare the two. It is not fair to your new pet nor is it fair to your deceased pet to have preconceived notions and expect them to be the same so that the void can be filled.”