5 Tips For Taking Care Of Your Mental Health When You Lose A Beloved Dog or Cat
By Bethany Hsia, DVM and Co-founder of CodaPet
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Losing a beloved pet can be among the most difficult experiences in life. Dogs and cats are more than just pets; they are members of the family, and their loss can leave us feeling heartbroken, overwhelmed, even angry or sometimes guilty. While these feelings are natural, it is detrimental to your health to ignore your grief and emotional needs during this time of mourning.
Here are some tips on how to take care of your mental health when you lose a beloved dog or cat:
- Allow yourself to grieve
The first step in taking care of your mental health after losing a pet is to allow yourself to grieve. Losing a pet is a significant loss, and the emotions that accompany the grief cycle may come in waves. It is okay to feel sad, angry, guilty, or to feel the numbness of nothing at all. It is essential to give yourself permission to feel these emotions and not suppress them. Grieving is a process that takes time and may not progress in a straight line, so don’t rush it and allow yourself to cycle through the phases as they come.
- Seek support
Chances are your pet provided you with emotional support in some way; whether from a sense of calm and peace upon looking into their big trusting eyes, the release of oxytocin upon stroking their fur or any number of other small grounding moments. The weight of grief coupled with the absence of previously available support from the departed pet can create a need for new support systems. Do not be hesitant to reach out to friends, family, support groups, or professionals. Support groups can look like formal meetings or online forums where people share and comment at their leisure; if at first you don’t find a place that fits, try another.
- Take care of yourself
Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally is important at any time; but all the more crucial during a time of mourning. Eat well, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep; these steps are simple sounding but they’re often more difficult to actually do. However, their importance cannot be overstated. Ignoring self-care can deepen grief and create a longer road to wellbeing. Engage in activities that bring you joy and comfort, such as reading, listening to music, or spending time in nature…sometimes even if you don’t feel like it at first.
- Create a memorial
Creating a memorial for your pet can be a beautiful way to honor their memory. Some memorial ideas include: creating a digital or physical photo album, planting a tree in a favorite spot in the yard, commissioning a piece of jewelry or decorative glass using some of your pet’s ashes, or donating to a cause in your pet’s honor. There are endless ways you can memorialize your pet that can help you process and give a lasting legacy to your pet.
- Consider counseling
Consider seeking help from a counselor or therapist who specializes in grief counseling or specifically in grief related to pet loss. This field exists for all of us. Seeking professional help is not reserved for when things are unmanageable, everyone can gain tools and benefit from professional advice.
While walking through the loss of a pet, remember that you are not alone in your grief. Seeking support, taking care of yourself, and allowing yourself to grieve are essential steps in the healing process. It takes time and effort, and that’s okay.
Sadly our pets don’t live as long as we would like them to; sometimes they develop health conditions that can significantly impact their quality of life. And at times, euthanasia may be the most humane option. When euthanasia is the next step, it is possible to have it performed at home. Here are three reasons why in-home euthanasia makes sense:
In-home euthanasia allows your pet to pass away in a comfortable and familiar environment. Your pet can be surrounded by their favorite toys, blankets, smells, and family members during their final moments.
- Reduced stress
Visiting a veterinary clinic can be stressful for both pets and their owners, especially if the pet is already experiencing pain or discomfort. In-home euthanasia eliminates the need for transport, which can reduce stress for both you and your pet.
In-home euthanasia provides a more private and intimate setting for saying goodbye to your pet. You can take the time you need to say goodbye without feeling rushed or self-conscious.
In-home euthanasia may not be an option in every circumstance but when available it can provide a more peaceful and compassionate end-of-life experience for our beloved dogs and cats.