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  • Writer's pictureerinwalter

Heartbreak when our pets die...healing hearts together

Losing a cherished pet is a heartbreaking experience that can leave a void in our lives. Whether it's a dog, cat, bird, horse or even a hamster, the bond we share with our animal companions is profound, and their loss can be profoundly painful. We will explore the journey of pet loss and provide guidance on how to speak with children about the death of a beloved pet, drawing from resources like the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) in Guelph and the wisdom of Dr. Alan Wolfelt.

Our pets are more than just animals; they are family members who bring joy, unconditional love, and companionship into our lives. The depth of our emotional connection with them is immeasurable, making their loss a significant and often devastating event. In most cases, this could be the first time we experience a death.

It's essential to recognize and validate the grief that comes with this experience, as it is a testament to the love we shared. The bond between a pet and their owner/family can be so strong and truly devastating.

Grief is a natural response to loss. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a renowned grief counselor, emphasizes that grief is a unique journey for each individual, and there is no "right" way to grieve. People may experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, guilt, and even relief. It's essential to allow yourself to feel these emotions without judgment. For some people, their pet was their ONLY family for whatever reason. One's dog or cat could have seen them through many of life's challenges and obstacles. From the keeper of secrets to the nightly routine cuddle. Watching our pet suffer or having to make a decision to about their life can weigh extremely heavy of us, complicating our grief. It's not about comparing our grief to a human's not the same and deserves its on space and emotions.

Discussing the death of a beloved pet with children can be challenging. The OVC in Guelph provides valuable guidance on addressing this delicate topic. It's so important to start by being honest and using simple, age-appropriate language to explain what has happened. Replacing the pet, lying or saying the pet is lost will only create many more mistrusts in the future.

Encourage your child to express their feelings, whether through talking, drawing, or writing. Create a celebration or funeral for your pet and have the children play an active role. Reassure them that it's okay to grieve and that their emotions are valid. If the topic comes up to welcome a new pet into the family, I do suggest that you do this slowly. Allow for you and the other family members to grieve their pet and it's not about "replacing" the family dog with a new puppy. These are two different experiences and healing does take time and work.

Creating a lasting tribute to your pet can be a therapeutic way to cope with grief. Consider having a paw print framed or the collar placed in a shadow box with a photo. The OVC suggests involving children in these activities as a way to honor their pet and remember the positive moments they shared.

Remember that you don't have to navigate the journey of pet loss alone. Reach out to friends and family who can offer emotional support. Online pet loss support groups, like those recommended by the OVC, can provide a sense of community and understanding during this challenging time. Please keep in mind many grief counsellors like myself specialize in pet loss and have experienced a death of a pet as well.

You are not alone and this grief can be very overwhelming to navigate solo.

Losing a beloved pet can be a devastating experience that can affect us deeply. We can learn to navigate the journey of pet loss and heal our wounded hearts. Remember that the love we shared with our pets lives on in our memories, and it's okay to grieve, remember, and honor their presence in our lives. I encourage you to take the day off work, allow yourself the time to reflect. Together, we can heal and cherish the lasting bond we had with our furry, feathered, or scaled companions.

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