Dog Care | Bereavement
Handing the Loss of a Loved One
The death of a family pet can be very difficult for some people. Pets are not only members of the family, but are loyal friends, companions, and playmates. They enrich our day-to-day lives in many ways, and their passing makes for a deep loss.
There are many reasons a pet may pass away:
- Old Age
- Fatal Accident
- Unexpected Occurrences
- Behavior Problems
- Put to Sleep
Many of these may place you in a difficult position to contemplate euthanasia. As an owner, you are responsible for their well-being, and when their quality of life has reached its limit, deciding to do the humane thing and end the pet’s suffering can be one of the hardest decisions you will ever make. This is why grieving often begins before the pet passes away.
Things to Consider When Assessing Your Pet’s Quality of Life:
- Pain or Harm When Walking or Moving
- Drastic Loss of Appetite
- Vomiting and/or Diarrhea After Eating or Drinking
- Difficulty Breathing
- Issues with Urination or Defecating
- Loss of Necessary Senses
- Unresponsive, Unmanageable or Reckless Behavior
Ask your vet for advice. They will be able to do a complete assessment of your pet’s health and level of suffering, and give you some options. This will help you make the best decision. You should also consult family and friends for support during this time.
Losing a friend and companion is always painful. Facing death is never easy, and may evoke feelings of denial, sadness, anger, guilt or depression. These reactions are perfectly normal and should never be repressed. Everyone grieves in their own way, and you also may experience some of these feelings in varying degrees and lengths of time. Acknowledging them is an important step in the mourning process. You should realize it’s perfectly normal to need some comforting. It will help you cope with your emotions and adjust to a way of life without your pet.
Be honest to your children. Children can tell when something is wrong, and in wanting to safeguard them from a painful experience, you may feel wiser to hide the decision-making process from them. Once the choice is made, talk openly about what has happened. Provide your kids with honest, simple answers that are still appropriate for their age, using terms they understand. They will respect you for it and also be better prepared to handle it.
Avoid white lies, young children will be confused by terms like “went to sleep”. This can lead to anxiety in your children about going to sleep, and other euphemisms. Encourage children to speak freely about your pet’s passing and give them the opportunity to vent. Share some of your own feelings with them. This will help them deal with their concerns and give them the chance to say goodbye their own way.
Make sure that kids understand it isn’t their fault for the pet’s death. Some children may get curious about death and the consequences in general. A factual, straight forward approach , using simple answers, will help guide them through the mourning process and lead to better acceptance of the pet’s death.
Even though we may not always believe it, time heals all wounds. Recognize the loss and give yourself emotional space to cope. Getting over sorrow, guilt and pain varies from person to person, so seek help when necessary. Hotlines, forums, chat rooms, and message boards are available to help on the internet, as well as books or professional help. Talk to your vet, friends and family about your feelings, or make a donation to a pet help center. With time, the pain will lessen and you and your family will fully cherish the memories of your special friend.