I would say that throughout my life, I have certainly experienced my fair share of loss and grief – from various extended family members and friends, to my beloved father and baby sister, and most recently, the loss of our beloved pet budgie Svmmer, who passed away from stomach cancer during our honeymoon. This is why I came up with the top 10 most effective strategies to cope with the loss of pet, which can really apply to loss of any loved one.
From the moment I heard the news about Svmmer’s passing, I started writing. I knew, at my core, that I needed an outlet and a healthy way to process the shocking news, so I wrote about the entire experience in my journal. This helped me understand my thoughts and emotions, which is often the first step in beginning to work through them.
This may not apply to everyone, but for many people death is associated with some sort of belief in a higher power. Whether it be called God, the Universe, or some other name, I do believe that all living creatures come from and return to somewhere beyond our world. Prayer can help connect you to your higher power, and serve as a source of comfort during difficult times.
When you first hear that your beloved pet is no longer with you, self-care can be literally the last thing on your mind. And I agree – even with all my experience with loss and grief, I absolutely would not want to do anything but cry, initially. However, taking care of your basic needs such as eating food, resting, and maybe even light exercise and a shower can work wonders when you are feeling low and lost in thoughts of your loved one.
- Bereavement Tasks
Whether you choose to bury your pet or go the route of cremation, taking action to complete the tasks associated with your loss can be just as beneficial as it is difficult. We chose to bury our pet in a local cemetery and I cannot explain how much weight lifted off my shoulders once the burial was complete. Now, we have a sense of peace knowing she is at rest, and we always have a place to go visit her.
- Help Others
There are so many ways that helping someone else can help you process your own grief, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. For us, helping Svmmer’s partner, Wynter, was our greatest healer. Wynter had stopped eating and singing, and spent all his days searching for Svmmer and his nights sitting quietly in the corner. Once we showed Wynter Svmmer’s body, he understood and was able to move forward (although he didn’t fully heal until months later when we introduced a new friend, Spryng). I also found that helping others in support groups or through sharing grief tips like this, I felt less alone in my loss and was able to make a difference for someone else.
Finding a way to preserve the memory of your beloved pet can be a critical step in handling feelings of grief. Websites such as petloss.com offer free weekly memorial services where you can share about and honor your pet, and keep a symbolic memory of it online. You can also donate in your pet’s name, plant a tree, or a do a good deed and dedicate it to your pet.
- Seek professional help
There is nothing wrong with seeking the help of a professional, such as a counselor or a therapist, especially one who specializes in grief. For many people, the loss of their pet may be their first experience with loss, and in these situations, a professional can help ensure you have the proper guidance and support during one of the most difficult times of your life.
Believe it or not, even family members or friends who do not have a pet or experience with loss can be of tremendous help after the loss of a pet. They can provide support, hold you accountable for self-care, or serve as a listening ear. If the family member lived with your or was also close to your pet, you can share stories and a special connection so the memory of your pet can live on through your other loved ones.
Do not mistake the above tips as a substitution for the inevitable reaction that nearly every person will encounter after losing their beloved pet – tears. Crying is an absolutely normal and healthy way to grieve the loss of a pet, so do not let anyone tell you otherwise. It is okay to feel how you feel, think what you want, and cry as much as you need to. Just be sure not to stay there for too long and always get back up.
- Support Groups
I saved this one for last because this has been the most long-term ongoing tool for coping with the loss of our own pet. Support groups can be local and in-person, or they can be online as part of a larger community. The Rainbow Bridge support group on Facebook as well as various blogs and YouTube videos from others who have experienced the same loss is ultimately what finally gave us the courage to open our hearts once again and begin our journey for a new furry friend to join our family.
Tribute To Svmmer, aka Lil Shummer:
You were our first pet, family member, baby
Out of 7 months, 3.5 were with me all day
I remember how you loved to throw your food
And pretend not to hear us when we scolded you.
When you played bowling or basketball
And cutely thought YOU were the ball.
You were starting to fly so high, and we were so proud of you
Always the alert and responsible role model.
We will never forget how you had to go to the ER
because you were overstimulation from an Aladdin song.
And how you pretended to cry at bedtime so we wouldn’t make you sleep.
Even though you were scared, you tried new foods like grapes
How you cleaned your feathers looking in the mirror
And I was content watching you do that all day long.
Wynter will miss your companionship
As he continues his routine by himself in a world without Svmmer
Everything scared you so now you’re at peace
with our other loved family members.
The day you passed away, we know
you sent us Rainbows all day.
In just 6 months you brightened our lives forever
Love you so much words can never be enough
You taught me a love I didn’t know I had
And now you’re flying free in Heaven
A rainbow angel in the sky.