There is immense pain when you lose someone you love, and that pain is no less when it comes to a pet that you considered a family member. The broken sad feeling of losing a pet is often described as “Pet Loss” or Animal Loss.
Pet loss can trigger depression in some people as the mourning process can bring a person down mentally. In this post, we will introduce 5 ways to cope with pet loss.
What is Pet Loss?
There is no clear line in what qualifies as pet loss. Some medical associations call it a pet loss if a person has simply lost their pet, and some others include the trauma and grief that follows.
In this post, we focus on the grief reaction that comes after losing a pet companion.
The Mental Consequences of a Pet Loss
According to research, the following are considered the effects of pet loss:
・Sudden and unstoppable tears
・Incapable of making progress due to self-hate
・Whitnessing shadows of their lost pet
・Prolonged anxiety and negativity
Additionally to the above points, pet loss is known to cause physical symptoms such as loss of appetite and dizziness. Generally speaking, pet loss can create mental states extremely similar to depression and should be taken care of if symptoms prolong.
5 Ways to Cope With Pet Loss
Some suggest that getting a new animal would help with pet loss, but for some people, owning a new pet too soon still feels like a betrayal to their lost love. The most important step in overcoming the sadness is to first fully accept the loss of your beloved pet.
As a way to completely accept the death of your pet, you can try the following methods:
1. Cry Your Heart Out
To face pet loss, you must first accept the death of your pet. Tears may fall when you think of your lost companion, but don’t hold it in and let it all out. Crying relaxes the sympathetic nerves so that the parasympathetic nerves can become dominant. This lifts mental stress.
Tears will shift the brain back to normal from a stress-controlled state, and this will allow a calm transition into acceptance of death.
Even if you logically understand that your pet has passed away, sometimes it’s hard to accept it emotionally. In these circumstances, it helps to talk to others who are also going through similar experiences.
Typically, when a person passes away, there are funerals with family and friends that gather to mourn and reflect on past memories together. This helps people understand death, but with animals, a ceremony like humans are rare.
We recommend that you connect online with others who are also experiencing pet loss. Whether it be a group or an individual, share your sad feelings and ideas on how to overcome them. It’s encouraging to know that you’re not alone in the grieving process and sharing experiences will allow your heart to process the emotional aspects of the death.
3. Keep Yourself Intentionally Busy
One way to cope is by keeping yourself intentionally busy. It can be mentally tolling to constantly deal with sadness.
Whether professional or private, shift your focus to other activities. This can temporarily alleviate some of the stress felt through pet loss. Eventually, you’ll feel free enough from sadness to calmly accept the passing of your pet.
4. Create Closure
Once you’re able to accept death, we recommend that you organize your memories with them. Your pet’s toys, toiletry, and cage will always trigger a flashback in memories unexpectedly. This can bring back the negative symptoms of pet loss.
Try to organize and let go of some objects, frame certain memories that you cherish, or make a keepsake box to store special items that are dear to you. This will help you move on to a post-death new phase.
A pet memorial ceremony is also very helpful. You can plant a tree or place a gravestone where you buried your pet’s ashes as a way for closure.
5. Seek Pet Loss Counseling
If nothing works, in the end, you can always seek professional help. It can be a general therapist, but we recommend a Pet Loss Counselor that specializes in these matters. They can empathize deeply about your loss as they understand specific difficulties a person goes through during the loss.
If the issues you face are hard to share with people in real life, an AI can hear you without any restrictions on time schedule, or location. It’s an affordable alternative counseling method with a free trial period. Give it a try!
Move Forward With All The Great Memories
In some cases, people suffer through pet loss for more than 6 months. It’s a sign that you’ve poured your heart into caring for your pet, so there’s no need to try and ‘get over.’ Instead, we hope that you can embrace their departure and learn how to move forward with all the great memories you’ve created together!
KIMURA, Y., KANAI, K., ITOH, N., CHIKAZAWA, S., HORI, Y., HOSHI, F., KAWABATA, H., & MAEZAWA, M. (2016). A Longitudinal Study of Mental Illness among Bereaved Pet Owners. Journal of Veterinary Epidemiology, 20(1), 59–65. https://doi.org/10.2743/jve.20.59
Kimura, Y. (2009). GriefReaction and Care Associated with Pet Loss in Japan. Japanese Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, 49(5), 357–362. https://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/110007161315
Nikaido, C., Ando, T., & Kajiwara, H. (2019). The past and future of pet loss study in Japan: A literature review. Journal of the College of Education, Yokohama National University. The Social Sciences, 2, 11–22. https://doi.org/10.18880/00012307