Pet loss can be one of the most difficult experiences in life. These six steps will help you prepare yourself and your family for losing a beloved animal companion.
Whether your furry friend has been with you for a couple years, a decade, or more, saying goodbye is never easy. Here are some steps you can take to help yourself and your family cope with the grief that comes with pet loss.
1. Seek Pet Loss Support
Friends, family, and professionals are excellent support networks. Losing an animal can be as painful as losing a human loved one, and talking about your feelings can help. Reach out to a therapist or counselor specializing in grief or join a pet loss support group.
2. Create a Bucket List for Your Dog or Cat
Sometimes, you might know when your dog or cat is living their final days. Create a bucket list of what you think their favorite things would be and start checking them off. Take them on their favorite walk (you can use a stroller or wagon if necessary). Give them their favorite treats. Bring over their favorite people. Let them nap in their favorite spot. The important thing is to spend as much quality time with them as possible—for the memories and to show them comfort and love. And don’t forget to take photos and videos.
3. Plan for Aftercare
Aftercare is about deciding what to do with your dog’s or cat’s remains. Some options include cremation, burial, or donating them for research. Cremation is the most common option, but you’ll still need to decide how to handle the cremains. Some people scatter the ashes in a special location, while others prefer to keep them in an urn. You can also opt for communal cremation, and the crematorium will scatter the remains.
4. Consider Euthanasia When Necessary
If your pet is suffering and their quality of life has deteriorated significantly, it may be time to consider euthanasia. It’s the most difficult decision a pet parent may ever have to make, but it may be the kindest choice for your furry friend. Discuss this with your veterinarian to better understand what to expect and prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. Euthanasia is considered a gentle death, especially when done in the comfort of your home.
5. Prepare Your Family
Be honest with children and family members about your companion’s condition and what will happen when they pass away. Encourage them to express their feelings and offer support as they grieve. It’s important to support each other during this difficult time. There are resources for preparing children for pet loss. Seek them out beforehand and choose a strategy that best suits your family. Some children and even teens may benefit from writing a letter to their dog or cat, coloring a picture, or picking flowers that can be sent with them when they go.
6. Take Care of Yourself After a Pet Loss
Get enough rest, eat well, and take time for self-care activities that help you cope with stress. You might even want to take time off work. Remember that everyone grieves differently, so don’t be hard on yourself if you’re struggling to cope.
Preparing for pet loss is never easy, but these steps can make the process a little less painful. Consider enlisting the help of a pet hospice or palliative care service. These organizations can provide support and guidance, help manage your pet’s pain, and provide emotional support for you and your furry friend.