Pet Loss and Bereavement: Decision-Making and Healing Process | AERA

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Pet Loss and Bereavement: The Decision-Making and Healing Process

April 17, 2020

 

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A pet is not just a friend and companion, but also a family member. That is why when we lose a pet, it makes it very difficult to say goodbye. We oftentimes don’t predict the difficult medical decisions or life adjustments that need to be made without our best friend by our side. Our doctors and staff at AERA are here to help provide you the necessary information and options when making a medical decision for your pet, as well as support you on the decision that you believe is best. No one is ever prepared to say goodbye to their best friend, but we are here to help you through the process and provide you resources and support during a difficult time.

 

Planning Ahead

While you can expect the process to be emotionally taxing, it may be beneficial to plan the death of your pet ahead of time. Planning in advance allows you to spend the anticipated last few moments with your pet to be strictly focused on being there and present in the moment. It is beneficial to understand that at some point, you will need to say goodbye to your pet. In doing so, you may want to start thinking about final arrangements of how you want to memorialize your pet. Once you make your final decisions, now you can freely live in the moment, spending time emotionally bonding and connecting with your pet. Planning ahead for the loss of your pet will allow your bond to grow stronger as you take advantage of your time together. This may also be a good opportunity to take some extra photos of the two of you together, go on an extra walk, or give an extra treat.

Decision-Making

No one knows your pet better than you do. You will be the first to notice a change in behavior, a different attitude or awareness, a decline in physical activity, or a sickness before presenting to the veterinarian. If your pet presents with an emergency or is diagnosed with an illness, it is important to consider both the prognosis, as well as your pet’s overall quality of life. While it may take some time for you and your pet to adjust to a different lifestyle – new medications, different levels of physical activity, etc. – consider the effect that these changes are having on your pet. Is your pet having difficulty eating? Is your pet in pain, making it difficult to go on the usual daily walk? Can any more medical treatment be done to support your pet? Connect with your family and friends and don’t hesitate to reach out to our veterinary team to get options on medical treatments and options.

In some cases, you may decide to continue treatments with your pet until his/her time comes naturally. In other cases, you may conclude that euthanasia is the best option for your pet. Either way, the decision is not easy, and saying goodbye is the hardest moment for a pet parent. Take the time to understand your emotions and allow yourself to spend time saying goodbye. If you decide on euthanasia, ask yourself who will be present, where the procedure will occur, how you would like to say goodbye and how you will memorialize the life of your beloved pet. While it is natural to feel guilt during this time, keep in mind that you know your pet best and that you did everything you could to give your pet the happiest and healthiest life.

Life After Loss

Losing a pet is never easy, and it is common for pet parents to feel grief and guilt following the loss of their pet, best friend, and family member. The grieving process may take time, but giving yourself the time to acknowledge the emotions will allow you to move through the healing journey.

The Grieving Process:

  • Permission to grieve
  • Seek ongoing support while you are grieving
  • Express your feelings of grief – mourn the loss
  • Consider journal writing, crafts, and other creative outlets
  • Use your coping skills
  • Prepare for strong emotions
  • Be patient

As you make your way through the grieving process, understand that it will take time and you may not move step-by-step. As you work through your emotions and coping mechanisms, you may begin to feel yourself healing. Continue to take care of yourself during this time, as healing is a slow and draining process. Take the time to consider your emotions and be proactive about finding time each day to bring some joy back into your life, by practicing your hobbies, relaxing, fostering, or even getting another pet if you feel you are ready. A new pet will never replace the bond you had in the past, but may be a great means of support, comfort, and healing.

Resources

There are many resources that you can access when moving through the difficult process of losing a pet.

Your family and friends are the ones who understand your bond with your pet best. Allow them to comfort and support you while weighing your options and moving through a difficult time. Your veterinarian will be able to provide you with all of the medical and treatment options, and will support your decision in choosing what is best for your pet. Other resources, such as Day by Day, provide pet-parent support to more deeply understand your options. Day by Day also has online and in-person support groups for pet parents who are moving through their grieving process. Hamilton Pet Meadow also offers pet loss support services, as well as a wide variety of options to memorialize your pet.