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Coping with the loss of a pet

Grieving for the loss of a beloved pet.

Grieving for the loss of a beloved pet. Photo Credit: Dreamstime

The death or loss of a pet can be traumatic and result in grief and bereavement. While pets may die naturally, through accidents, or by trauma, pets can also die through euthanasia, which often means that the pet owner must decide when his or her pet is put down. Pets can also be lost when they run away, with no opportunity for closure. Or pets may have to be given away, due to logistical or financial reasons.

There is a lack of formal societal or religious processes for grieving and mourning the loss of a pet. And family and friends may not acknowledge the depth of grief brought on by the loss of a pet, the need for a period of bereavement, or the inability of a person to quickly replace the pet.

If you are grieving the loss of a beloved pet, these strategies may help:

Recognize the depth of feelings of the loss. Your pet may have been with you through the ups and downs in life and helped you cope with other losses. Give yourself time and space to grieve. Individual, group and family psychotherapy may be helpful to process the loss.

Focus on daily and weekly schedules of personal and professional responsibilities. Be sure to incorporate pleasant activities into your days.

Identify triggers for your grieving — the pet food aisle in the grocery store or driving by places you shared with your pet.

Find ways to meaningfully grieve. Create a memory book, build a memorial, or donate money or time to a pet welfare cause.

Explore self-help groups at a local animal shelter or ASPCA. There are also a number of online forums that allow people to receive support while they grieve and process their loss.

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