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Coping with loss of a pet is traumatic

It seems like every week we talk to a people dealing with loss on the Senior LinkAge Line®.  It can be heartbreaking to hear the grief in their voices as they try to navigate through a roller coaster of new emotions.

Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried — and there is no timetable for grieving.

It is important to be honest about your feelings. Don’t deny your pain, or your feelings of anger or guilt. Only by examining and coming to terms with your feelings can you begin to work through them.

You have a right to feel pain and grief! Someone you loved has died, and you feel alone and bereaved. You have a right to feel anger or guilt, as well.

Locking away grief doesn’t make it go away. Express it. Cry, scream, pound the floor, talk it out. Experiencing loss isn’t always just limited to your spouse, relatives or friends, the loss of a pet can also be devastating.

Animals provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support, and unconditional love.

Given the intense bond most of us share with our animals, it’s natural to feel devastated by feelings of grief and sadness when a pet dies. While some people may not understand the depth of feeling you had for your pet, you should never feel guilty or ashamed about grieving for an animal friend.  For many people a pet is not “just a dog” or “just a cat.” Pets are beloved members of the family and, when they die, you feel a significant, even traumatic loss. If you live alone and the pet was your only companion, coming to terms with his loss can be even harder. Sorrow and grief are normal and natural responses to death. Like grief for humans, grief for animal companions can only be dealt with over time, but there are healthy ways to cope with the pain.

As we age, we experience an increasing number of major life changes. Coping with the loss of a pet can be particularly hard for seniors. Those who live alone may feel a loss of purpose and an immense emptiness. A pet’s death may also trigger painful memories of other losses and remind caregivers of their own mortality.

There are many reasons to once again share your life with a companion animal, but the decision of when to do so is very personal.  Whatever you decide, give yourself time to grieve.