Loss of a Pet: How to cope with grief when you a lose a pet

Coping with the grief over loss of a pet-and how to find support.
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Pets are an amazing phenomenon when you think about it. Here we are, human beings, living with animals from completely different species, with no common verbal or visual language, yet clearly sharing deep love and affection. We come to regard each other as "family," as dear as an actual blood relative may be.

Loss of a Pet

But ... there's a downside. With rare exceptions, we are going to outlive our pets. Loss of a pet, whether to early trauma or old age, may be at least as difficult (if not more) as losing a human family member.

People who don't have pets may not understand the depth and breadth of the bond between our animal companions and us. They see our sorrow and say, "Geez, it was just a dog!" Yes, just a dog: a dog that was with you every day, every night, at every possible moment; loving you at all times, unconditionally, in a way that humans themselves rarely can. Is it any wonder that we grieve the loss of that sweet, comforting presence in our lives?

Modern medicine has made death into a terrifying enemy. Death is something to be avoided at all costs, or at least postponed until the last possible second. Death is seen as defeat, instead of what it is: the end result of living. For one who is suffering, death may even be the greatest gift.

It's 100 percent normal to grieve the loss of a pet. But there are other emotions that can get in the way and make life miserable. For instance, you may feel guilty for missing an early indicator of a serious illness; or you may be angry with your veterinarian for not saving your pet's life (whether or not it was possible to do so). That's normal too. But it's not good to hang onto those emotions by constantly rehashing painful scenarios in your mind. The truth is that the only one those feelings ultimately hurt is you; so it's best to let them go as much as possible. Don't let them take over and spoil the memories of all the happy times with your pet.

What I know and believe, from helping hundreds of pets experience a peaceful transition, is this: animals are not as attached to their bodies as we are to ours. They don't spend any time worrying about death in advance. They live in the moment, and they cope with the moment. From what I've seen, and from what my animal communicator colleagues have told me, animals are much better at accepting the inevitability of death. They don't hold any hard feelings. Once they "cross over," all is forgiven. They understand that whatever decisions we may have made regarding their care, we made them from our hearts-and a decision made with that loving intention cannot be wrong. So no matter what went before, at death, animals become fully what we always knew they were: pure love. They continue to see us with the love we always saw in their eyes. They love us as much as they ever did in life, and they always will. Author Eckhart Tolle says, "Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. Life is eternal." I, for one, am absolutely certain that this is true.

If you are facing a hard decision for your pet, or if your loving companion has died, there are many wonderful resources to help you through the grieving process. Please do not hesitate to contact your local shelter to find a support group in your area; visit the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement at aplb.org; or call Cornell University's Pet Loss Support Hotline, available most evenings, at 607-253-3932.

Homeopathy for Grief

  • Ignatia amara is recommended for the emotional pain associated with grief and trauma, and can help to alleviate weeping and anxiety.
  • Natrum muriaticum, more commonly known as Nat mur, is created from sodium chloride (salt) and is often recommended for trauma, grief, heartbreak, or fright.
  • Phosphoric Acid is indicated for those feeling exhausted in mind and body as a result of a traumatic event.

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