So you've never experienced the death of a close family member or friend, but you do know this: when your dog died suddenly, you were devastated. You felt sad, shocked, and angry, but people kept saying, "Come on, it's just a dog!" and this made you feel silly for being so upset.
The death of a pet is very different from the death of a person, but we can still learn a lot about grieving from these experiences. In fact, grieving for a pet follows the same basic pattern as it does for people. After all, our pets are members of our family and, sometimes, our best friends. They love us unconditionally and we feel responsible for their safety and happiness.
If you're struggling with the death of an animal you loved very deeply, consider these ideas:
- Hold a funeral or memorial so you can "say goodbye."
- Cry as much as you need to, and talk about what you're feeling to anyone who will listen and not judge.
- Use creativity to express yourself and remember your pet. All of our suggestions in Get Creative will work just as well for a pet as they do for a person!
When we lose a pet, it's very tempting to run right out and get a new "replacement" to fill the empty space in our home and heart. Try not to rush into anything, and give yourself time to work through your emotions.
Hannah, 10, told us how she got through the grieving process after her cat, Tasha, was hit by a car and killed: "I knew I couldn't bring Tasha back, but a few months later we went to the animal shelter. I fell in love with this new kitty and adopted him, which meant that we saved his life. I liked the idea that we honored Tasha by giving life to another cat."