How to Cope When a Pet Crosses the Rainbow Bridge

Humans love their furry friends, and more than 9 out of 10 people consider them family. When given the option to select one companion for a deserted island, more than 50% of U.S. adults say they would choose their pet. But of course, most pets have a much shorter lifespan than humans, so many of us will outlive our dearest companion. Because of this strong connection, it can be difficult to cope with the loss of a pet. The following are some ideas for coping. We hope it helps.

Grieve on Your Own Schedule

Pets are special, and the loss of a nonhuman companion can be devastating. Some people may try to invalidate those feelings with comments like, “It’s just a pet,” but they don’t understand the special bond. Ignore their comments, and allow time to grieve when a pet passes, whether it’s a bunny you’ve owned for 2 years or a cat you’ve had since college. There is no timeline for grief, so you may feel better in just a few weeks, or you may tear up years later when something triggers a memory of your pet. These are both normal.

Honor Your Pet

You may have seen the phrase “gone but never forgotten” scribed on keepsakes or funeral programs for humans, but that statement rings true for pets, too. Keep your pet’s memory alive with a special memento, such as a paw print tattoo or framed photograph. Some pet owners also find it helpful to wear a necklace filled with ashes or keep an urn in a prominent location, such as the center of a mantel.Accept the Situation

Your beloved pet is gone, and unfortunately, you can’t change that. When you think about your pet’s demise, you may feel angry, depressed or conflicted. You may even find yourself questioning your own identity if it’s linked to your role as a pet owner. What do you do in the evenings if you aren't walking the dog? These are all normal feelings, so give yourself time to sort through them rather than blocking out the situation or pretending you feel fine.

Replacement Pets

It’s okay to get another pet when you feel ready, but don’t rush into finding a replacement the day after your pet passes away. You can't substitute one animal for another and the new pet may cause resentment. Some people may even feel disappointed when the new pet doesn’t behave the same way, which can affect the bond that would otherwise happen. It may also be difficult to care for a new pet properly during the grieving process, especially for those who are overwhelmed by sadness. Wait until you feel ready for a new pet, whether it takes weeks or years.

Losing a pet can be heartbreaking — and understandably so. Don’t rush through the grieving process when your beloved pet crosses the rainbow bridge, and focus on the fond memories of your time together, knowing that you provided a good life for your pet. You can get through this loss with support from your loved ones. Just remember it’s completely acceptable to seek help from medical professionals if you find yourself slipping into depression.

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2/25/2020 8:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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Another thing that can be very difficult sometimes, depending on the situation, are guilt feelings. Did I have my pet euthanized too soon for example, or what if I had had his teeth cleaned sooner, etc? What if's can create guilt feelings that can add to the grieving process. I just lost 3 cats between 10/22 and 12/16 - the first to carcinoma, the second to lymphoma and the third to renal failure. The first was expected for months, the other two were sudden. Two I had adopted when they were kittens and the other when he was 2. I was totally overwhelmed and crying a good part of the time and am still grieving though time has helped some. I created a little memorial to each one with pictures in special frames, their paw prints, which my vet did, framed, and a couple of other things. I have alternated their pictures on my desktop so they are the first thing I see when I turn on my computer and the last thing I see at night when I turn it off. I still talk to them and I miss them more then I can begin to say.
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