Losing a beloved pet can be incredibly challenging. In Australia, where a majority of households own pets, the loss of a pet is a common experience that can cause significant grief and emotional distress. The loss of a pet can be particularly difficult because of the unconditional love and emotional support they provide. This loss can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
It’s important to remember that grief after the loss of a pet is a normal and natural response. There is no “right” way to grieve, and it’s crucial to give yourself the time and space to process your emotions fully. Seeking support from trusted friends, family, grief counselors, or joining support groups for pet owners can be helpful in coping with grief.
In addition to emotional support, there are practical steps that pet owners can take to honor their pet’s memory and process their grief. Planting a tree, creating a memorial garden, making a donation to an animal welfare organization, or creating a scrapbook or photo album are all meaningful ways to remember a beloved pet.
Two stories from Animal Aid adoptees illustrate how individuals coped with the grief process. Percy, a nine-month-old puppy, brought immense joy to his family. Lunar, a beautiful fluffy feline, was a constant companion through the highs and lows of her owner’s life. While the grieving process was very challenging, remembering the good times and funny moments helped ease the pain.
“Percy was one in a million,” said his owner Karen, “He brought more joy into our lives than we could have thought possible.”
“He lived a big life and we thought we would have him for a few more years to come,” Karen said, “It was not to be – and so it was with the saddest of hearts that we had to make the decision to let him go in his old age.”
Karen and her family leant on each other through the sadness of grief and scattered memories of him around the house to remember the happy times.
Lunar the cat was adopted by Annalise in 2014. Lunar was a scrawny 18-month-old who had just had a litter of babies, but she grew into the majestic floof that everyone knew her as.
“Lunar was a beautiful fluffy girl. Her favorite thing was to be with her humans, roll around in the sunshine, sit on our laps and be crowned with various flower crowns,” said Annalise, “Early in February, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and passed away in 2022.”
Annalise said she did not cope initially.
“To help I always think of the good times and the funny things she would get up to,” said Annalise, “She was my little buddy through my highs and lows.”
“Time heals, and it’s okay to cry and miss them. Find ways to remember them, whether it is sponsoring a pen in memory of them or getting a special memorial portrait.”
It’s essential for people to understand that grieving a pet takes time and compassion. Susan de Castella, a local grief author, emphasizes the importance of seeking support from supportive groups during this journey.
“Finding a way to remember the pet, such as through a grave marker, memorial stone, framed portrait, or pet loss necklace, can provide solace in the later stages of grief,” says Susan.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the grief of losing a pet, resources like the Pet Loss PDF from Grief Line Australia or reaching out to Lifeline on 131114 can offer support.
Remember that it’s okay to grieve and that sharing your story can help others going through similar challenges.