Whether it’s through a tragic accident or simply due to old age, losing a pet is never an easy experience for pet owners. However, it is one that we must all navigate once we reach a certain point in our journey. This sudden or expected loss can take a major toll, and many of us may not know what to do when it comes. If you recently had to say goodbye to a furry friend and are asking yourself what comes next, here is some guidance on how to cope with this loss and start moving forward.

Losing a Pet: Cat and Dog Cuddling

Consider Memorializing Your Pet

Our pets may no longer be with us, but that doesn’t mean that we have to try to forget them as a way to deal with our grief. One helpful tip that will allow you to navigate the grieving process more successfully is to find a way to memorialize your pet. For some, this may mean cremating them and finding a beautiful item to store them in that you can put in plain view. For others, this may be a simple as framing a picture and creating a space for them where you can put flowers or even their favorite toys.

While memorializing a pet doesn’t make losing a pet any easier, it can help you feel a greater sense of comfort as you cope with this loss.

Build a Support Network of Friends and Family

Some may interpret losing a pet as being less impactful than losing a friend or a family member. Despite this stigma, however, losing a pet can be very traumatic. At the least, some may feel a persisting sense of sadness that makes life more difficult. Others, however, may take this loss very hard and be at risk of developing depression.

One of the most crucial moves to make after this loss is to build a support network of friends and family who will be there for you while you grieve the loss of your pet. While you will feel better over time, having this invaluable resource makes the hard days easier to overcome. You will get through it!

Consider Seeking Out Professional Help

Grief is often believed to be an experience that is completed in stages (often a result of “the five stages of grief”). However, it’s not that simple. Some days you may feel good while others can be much harder to get through. You may even experience a wide variety of emotions throughout the week or even in a single day. After losing a pet, dealing with any of these changes is not uncommon.

What you’ll want to keep an eye out for are symptoms that are not necessarily indicative of grief on its own. For example, if you begin developing symptoms like difficulty eating or overeating, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, fatigue, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, negative thoughts and feelings, and other uncharacteristic personality changes, your grief may have developed into depression.

Another wise move to make after the loss of a pet is to reach out for professional help. If you are beginning to experience some of the symptoms listed above, a mental health professional can help you understand and deal with these feelings, providing you with the appropriate treatment you need and making it so that you move toward a greater sense of happiness. If you aren’t dealing with these feelings, a therapist can give you someone to talk to and provide you with stronger coping mechanisms to make life without your furry friend easier.

Although there are sometimes negative perceptions associated with mental health, going to see a counselor is one excellent way to help you cope with this type of loss.

Find Ways to Stay Engaged and Active

Losing a pet is hard enough. But when you experience a loss during an already difficult time like the middle of a pandemic, it can make it even more difficult to deal with.

One of the best recommendations for coping in today’s environment is to find ways to stay engaged in your life so that you’re not ruminating on the loss. This can be a simple as finding a new hobby such as painting, baking, or even reading some of your favorite books. You should also find some way to stay active if you’re not already, whether it be taking a walk outside or finding home fitness routines.

The loss of a pet is something that will stand out to you significantly after it initially happens. Do your best to process and acknowledge these feelings while still managing to stay present in your life and finding ways to be happy and grounded.

Make Sure Your Family and Other Pets Are Cared for As Well

Losing a pet is something that’s felt as a family unit, even by other pets that may not understand where their best friend has gone to. Make it a priority to sit down with younger children and explain to them what has happened, giving them the emotional support that they need during this difficult time as well. If you’ve noticed that other pets in the household have begun to act morosely, do your best to stick to their schedule and give them plenty of love. With your support for you and your support for them, it can be easier to work through your feelings.

Losing a pet is never easy but those who are experiencing their first loss may not know what they need to do to cope with these feelings. If you’ve lost a pet or are anticipating saying goodbye to your best friend soon, use this guide as a way to navigate these difficult times and begin working towards a happier, healthier life.