The death of a much-loved pet can be devastating and saying goodbye can be an extremely tough and emotional time, especially for the elderly for whom their pet is often their only companion.
Just like the death of a human family member, losing a pet can result in the same set of emotions and in some cases, the devastation and pain can be worse!
All too often the death of our pets will make us question our decisions and the guilt can be unbearable. Was there more that could have been done? Should I have picked up on illness sooner? What if I had been home when my pet fell ill!
It is all too easy for us to focus on self-criticism and find guilt where there is none and distorted conclusions can plague us for months, even though such feelings are completely illogical.
This is never an easy decision, but we should never prolong a pet’s suffering. It is often said that your pet will know when it is time, but it does not lessen the burden of guilt.
A good veterinarian will help you decide when the time is right and should never allow your pet to suffer needlessly and they will assist you through such a difficult time.
There are two schools of thought when your pet dies unexpectedly. The first being that it is in some ways easier and the second that some people may think that they should have detected symptoms earlier.
For some pet owners, an unexpected death is thought easier since they do not have to make that difficult decision to have their pet put to sleep. We all hope that our pets will die peacefully, but this rarely happens.
The finality of death is a difficult concept to explain to a child and they need to understand the finality.
We should remember the strong connections that are formed between a child and their pet and holding a burial, or having a memorial, will help to reinforce the importance of their lives.
Children may not immediately show their emotions, but this does not mean that they are severely affected by the loss. Very young children may not fully understand the concept of death and reading age-appropriate books about death may prove extremely helpful.
There can be a period of denial following the death of a pet, followed by anger, which can be directed at either yourself or even the vet. Invariably, there will be times when you avoid returning home since this is confronting the reality of an empty home.
We may feel irritable, self-critical and fall into depression and pet parents realised that their loss is permanent.
Coping with loss
Speaking with others who understand your loss and are supportive can help. The Blue Cross has a Pet Loss and Bereavement line 0800 0966606 or visit their website https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-bereavement-and-pet-loss
Sometimes recalling memories of your happy life together, rather than a snapshot of your pets last days/hours can help. The pain may feel intolerable now, but YOU WILL GET THROUGH and there will be a time when those beautiful memories will bring happiness and laughter instead of pain and sorrow.