When a Loved Pet Dies
I woke this morning to a message that Frankie, our family dog died with my dad cuddled up next to him. I didn’t expect to feel such sadness, but I do and I suppose that’s testament to how much I loved the little guy.
Frankie (or as I liked to call him, Franklin Delano Roosevelt) was a bichon frise and we were all excited when my parents brought him home because although my mom has always been a dog lover, she’s allergic to pretty much all animals. Then she learned Frankie’s breed was hypoallergenic and decided to give it a try and I’m glad she did.
Frankie was a tiny little guy, but fiercely protective of each of us. Whenever I’d take someone outside of the family to visit my parents, Frankie would stare them down and bark insistently as though he were saying “mess with my sister and I’ll get you.” He provided so much comfort to my dad through his journey with cancer and was the best little adventurer with the little kids who spent hours on end playing all sorts of make believe with him.
It’s definitely going to feel strange walking into my parent’s house tomorrow to pick up my dad for his doctors appointment in Boston and not have Frankie greet me, tail wagging, at the door. This sadness is completely new to me because I’ve never dealt with the loss of a pet. I can only imagine how sad my parents and the little kids will be and how strange their house will feel without Frankie.
If you’ve got a sick pet or have just lost one, here are a couple tips from Help Guide on coping:
- Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment. It’s okay to be angry, to cry or not to cry. It’s also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you’re ready.
- Reach out to others who have lost pets. Check out online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and pet loss support groups. If your own friends, family members, therapist, or clergy do not work well with the grief of pet loss, find someone who does.
- Rituals can help healing. A funeral can help you and your family members openly express your feelings. Ignore people who think it’s inappropriate to hold a funeral for a pet, and do what feels right for you.
- Create a legacy. Preparing a memorial, planting a tree in memory of your pet, compiling a photo album or scrapbook, or otherwise sharing the memories you enjoyed with your pet, can create a legacy to celebrate the life of your animal companion.
- Look after yourself. The stress of losing a pet can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to release endorphins and help boost your mood.
- If you have other pets, try to maintain your normal routine. Surviving pets can also experience loss when a pet dies, or they may become distressed by your sorrow. Maintaining their daily routines, or even increasing exercise and play times, will not only benefit the surviving pets but may also help to elevate your outlook too.