Gone But Not Forgotten: Coping With Pet Loss
When we bring a pet into our homes to share our lives, we know it isn’t going to last forever. Regardless of how long we’ve had our pets or whether their passing was expected, saying goodbye is never easy.
The empty space left behind when a beloved pet passes away can feel vast and insurmountable; it’s common for pet owners, children, and other pets to experience some or all the stages of grief. Your friends at The Whole Pet Vet hope that our guidance and resources are helpful as you navigate the path toward healing after pet loss.
Begin at the Beginning
To truly heal your heart, you must allow yourself the time and space to grieve. In our fast-past society, this is easier said than done. People often trivialize the deep bond between a pet and their human family members. Know that feelings of guilt, anger, and despair are normal. Grant yourself and other family members understanding and forgiveness during this time as everyone processes their emotions in his or her own way.
Many people find solace in memorializing their pets in whatever way feels right.
Some ideas include:
- Create a collage or scrapbook of favorite photos and memories.
- Organize a memorial service.
- Hang a framed photograph of your pet in a place of honor in your home.
- Get together with loved ones who were close with your pet and share funny stories and memories.
- Plant a memorial garden in your pet’s honor. Fill it with pet-friendly plants and a bowl of water for any four-legged friends that may be passing through.
- Volunteer at a local rescue group or make a donation in your pet’s name.
- Peninsula Humane Society Pet Loss Support Group
- SF SPCA Pet Loss Support Group
- Berkeley Humane Society Pet Loss Support
- Humane Society Of Silicon Valley Pet Loss Counseling
- Contra Costa Veterinary Medical Association Pet Loss Support Group in Pleasant Hill (925-932-0607 or 510-752-7757)
- Janis Seiberlich, MFT – 411 Moorpark Ave #212, San Jose, 650-810-5680, www.healing-heart-therapy.com
- Lois Mark, MSW, B.C.D. – San Mateo And Alameda Offices, 650-344-5162, https://loismark.com/maincontact.html
- Bonnie Goodman, M.A., C.T. – Palo Alto, 650-858-0755, www.goodmancounseling.com
- Betty Carmack, R.N., Ed.D. – Office in San Francisco and home calls to San Francisco and upper peninsula, 415-334-5036, https://bettycarmack.com/petloss/author.html
- Gerri Bradley, M.A., M.F.T. – Oakland, 510-482-2861
- Jessica Marie Klinghoffer, R.N., M.A. – Home calls to San Jose/Campbell, 408-499-8770
- Shelley Dukes, M.A., M.F.T. – Scotts Valley and Los Gatos offices, 831-461-1951 or 408-348-6001, www.shelleydukes.com
Children and Pet Loss
Protecting children from the pain associated with the loss of a pet is a first instinct for many parents. However, this may deny them the opportunity to work through these complicated and meaningful emotions. Try the following ideas to guide kids as they grieve in their own unique ways:
- Draw pictures of the pet.
- Share lots of stories and memories together.
- Allow your child to assist in the burial or ashes ceremony.
- Help your child to select and plant a tree in your pet’s honor.
- Check out your local library for books on helping children process pet loss.
We’re Here for You
Meeting each day without the sight of your pet’s face, the feel of his or her fur, and the sounds of barks or meows can be devastating. The Whole Pet Vet would like to offer our deepest condolences for your loss. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for help.