As faithful companions and treasured family members, pets bring such joy and comfort to our lives. When a beloved pet dies, it is natural to grieve. If you have recently lost a pet, you may be experiencing the following common signs and symptoms of grief:
Shock -Feeling numb or dazed, absorbed in your own thoughts, disoriented or detached from your surroundings.
Sadness and tears are normal and healthy responses to loss.
Increased or decreased appetite- You may have little appetite or find comfort in food. Eating is essential for your health, strength and survival. You must eat several times a day whether you are hungry or not. If your appetite is poor, look for foods that taste good and are easy to prepare.
Fatigue, sleeplessness or oversleeping - You may feel tired, listless or apathetic. You may need extra sleep, and you may have difficulty sleeping.
Physical discomfort may include tightness in the throat and chest, sensitivity to noise, shallow breathing, and fatigue. Take good care of your health and discuss physical symptoms with your doctor.
Social isolation - You may find it difficult to adjust to the pace and energy of others. You may avoid social activities. You may not return phone calls.
Difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness - You may have trouble concentrating, remembering, organizing and completing necessary tasks. Accept your limits for now and ask for help when needed.
Irritable and angry -You may be short tempered and prone to angry outbursts.
Guilt and regrets - You may regret not knowing or doing something. Try to be gentle and reflect on your experience with kindness and understanding.
Periods of wellbeing - In time, the intensity of your grief will diminish, and you will begin to experience short periods of well-being. In the beginning, these may be brief. You may smile or laugh. You may enjoy a meal, conversation, activity or cherished memory. Over time, these moments occur more often and last longer.
Helping Children Cope with the Death of a Pet
The death of a pet is often a child’s first introduction to grief. Like adults, it is normal and natural for children to grieve the loss of a pet, and when they do, children need comfort and stability. To help a child who is grieving, it is best to let his or her questions be your guide. Try to be honest about the circumstances of the death as well as your own feelings. Avoid vague terms that a child may not understand. If you are not able to answer a question, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” It is OK to cry and be sad in front of children as long as you maintain an atmosphere of safety. This teaches them that it is OK for them to cry, laugh and be themselves even when they are sad.
When helping children, you cannot go wrong with honesty, stability and comfort. Keep normal routines as much as possible. Babies and toddlers need physical reassurance such as hugs. Provide brief and simple explanations to young children. Older children often benefit from clear and factual information about the loss. Avoid telling children how they should or should not feel. Instead, listen and accept their feelings unconditionally. Don’t be surprised if children are sad one minute and want to play the next. You may also want to contact teachers, school guidance counselors, or other school staff to inform them about the loss.
Honoring Your Pet
All living things have a uniqueness that is all their own. It lives in the heart of those who love them and remains after we leave this world. Your pet is no exception. While it is natural that memories of your pet bring grief and sadness, it may help to remember that these feelings are a tribute to your pet’s life and the impact he or she had in this world. What special attributes did he or she display? What did he or she like and dislikes? How did he or she love you? When you are ready, you may want to honor and remember these special traits by:
We partner with Treasure Coast Hospice in Stuart for assistance with pet loss. Please call 772-403-4530 to find out more about this program.