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Family Matters: Pet Loss


You can never imagine the pain that accompanies a loss of a pet until it happens to you.

Our pets are loyal companions who quickly turn into best friends. Many of us have bought clothes to keep our pet warm, made a special cupcake for their birthday, and even taken them on our family vacation. Why would we not grieve when we experience the loss of this treasured family member?

To an outsider looking in it may seem silly, but these feelings are normal. Talk to someone you’re comfortable with, like a family member or friend. Don’t bottle up your feelings, but express them. Like any other loss you may feel guilt, denial, anger and depression.

If you have children, pay special attention to their feelings, so they can understand and accept the loss, too. For many children, the loss of a pet may be the first experience they have ever had with serious illness and death.

Most grief experts suggest that you don’t try to “hide” the pet’s death from children but treat it honestly and openly. If you use vague terms or make up a false story about the animal’s disappearance, you will only create more stress, anxiety and sadness in the child.

Use simple, direct, but compassionate language that is appropriate to your child’s age and understanding. For instance, children under 5 do not understand that death is permanent, so you may need to explain simply that the animal can no longer move and will not wake up again.

No matter the age of your child, give them time to get over the loss. Let them talk about their pet, share stories together, and explain that it’s normal to miss them for a long time.

Finally, it’s important to pay extra attention to any other pets in your household, too. Your other pets will notice the loss of their companion and will grieve just like you. Losing a pet can be hard on your whole family. Just remember these feelings are normal and you need to express them.

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Posted in: Family Matters

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