Losing a pet is heartbreaking, but thankfully there is an increased understanding and sympathy for those grieving for a beloved pet.
The loss of a pet impacts individuals in different ways; we all deal with our feelings in our own way and in our own time. For some, feelings of sadness and a sense of loneliness can be overwhelming. Added to that, there may be a sense of guilt and self-doubt, particularly when a decision has been taken to euthanase or rehome a pet.
Experts emphasize that these feelings are perfectly normal and a testimony to the special bond people have with their pets. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for friends, family members or work colleagues to fail to understand the upset that losing a pet can bring.
However, pet bereavement is a very real thing and is recognised as such by health professionals, both human and veterinary. There are books, websites and Facebook groups dedicated to the subject, as well as trained professionals and volunteers who can offer support for those who struggle with the process.
IT’S GOOD TO TALK
Allow yourself time to grieve. Losing a pet is just as harrowing as losing a human loved one. Sharing one’s feelings with someone who knows from personal experience how distressing pet loss can be has been proven to help. If you don’t have someone you can talk to, or feel you need further help, there are trained pet bereavement specialists who will listen with compassion and without judgement.
The Blue Cross charity’s Pet Bereavement Support Service helps people to cope with the loss of a pet, be it recent or many months or even years ago, but also those heartbroken about a pet who’s gone missing. It’s worth knowing that their trained bereavement volunteers can also offer support for those anticipating the demise of a much-loved pet. The free helpline operates daily form 8.30am to 8.30pm. Call 0800 096 6606. For written advice and support email [email protected] Head to their website for information on the service as well as helpful reading material. www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-bereavement-and-pet-loss
Paws to Listen is a free grief support hotline run by Cats Protection. Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays) 0800 024 94 94
The Friends at the End scheme is run by the British Horse Society. They’ll put you in touch with a local ‘Friend’, a trained horse welfare adviser. Call 02476 840517 or email [email protected]
TIPS FOR SUPPORTING CHILDREN
- Be honest about the circumstances of the pet’s death – don’t pretend that it has gone missing if it has died
- Don’t underestimate your child’s feelings. Encourage them to talk and express their emotions. Writing a story or poem, or drawing a picture of their pet can be helpful
- Try to understand the importance of the animal and what the child has lost; don’t trivialise or minimalise their grief
- Inform their teacher if the child is very upset, but do so discreetly
- Don’t be afraid to share your own feelings of sadness