The strong bonds many people share with their pets can make the death of those pets, be it sudden or expected, difficult to handle. It's not uncommon to be traumatized when a pet dies, and such grief may be influenced by the pet's age at the time of its death, the circumstances surrounding that death and the nature of the relationship between the owner and pet.
Different pet owners deal with the death of a pet in different ways, but the following are some ways to cope with the loss of a companion animal.
• Recognize that everyone feels differently. Grief is expressed in many different ways. What one person experiences may not be the norm for another. You may go through a variety of emotions, from anger at the circumstances and being left without your pet, to guilt if you believe there may have been something more you could have done to prolong the animal's life. Mourn in your own way, and afford others the same opportunity.
• Reach out to others. Grief often can turn a person inward, and your feelings may be bottled up. Talking about your emotions, whether it's with a trusted friend or even a therapist, may help. Online message boards that cover grief and pet loss may provide the support you need. Leaning on others who have been in your shoes may help you recover more quickly.
• Create mementos or a legacy for the pet. Creating mementos may help children who are having their own difficulty dealing with pet loss. Work with your child to create a photo album or plant a tree to honor your pet.
Dealing with a pet that must be euthanized can be especially difficult. Pet owners can choose to be in the room during the procedure, and that decision should not be made lightly. If you think you can handle it and you want to be there to comfort your pet, then you might be more comfortable being in the room. But being present when a pet is euthanized can be emotional, so give this decision serious consideration.
Once a pet has died, many owners debate whether or not to bring a new pet into their homes. Another animal around the house can fill the void created when your previous pet passed away, and some people adopt or buy a new pet before an old or sick pet passes away to make the transition as smooth as possible. A new pet should only be brought into the home when you're ready to build a new relationship.