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  1. #1
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    Coping with the loss of a pet

    Coping with the loss of a pet
    by David R. Topor, PhD, MS-HPEd, Harvard Health Blog
    June 22, 2017

    Over a third of American households own at least one pet, and people often have close bonds with their pets. In one study, 13 of 16 people said they would give a hard-to-get lifesaving medicine to their pet over non-family people.

    The death or loss of a pet can be a traumatic experience and result in grief and bereavement. The loss is unique in a number of ways. While pets may die naturally, through accidents, or by trauma, pets can also die through euthanasia, which often means that the pet owner must decide exactly when his or her pet is put down. Pets can also be lost when they run away, with no opportunity for closure. Or pets may have to be given away, due to logistical or financial reasons.

    There is a lack of formal societal or religious processes for grieving and mourning the loss of a pet. For example, if the pet is cremated, the ashes are usually collected at the veterinarian?s office or even sent through the mail. And family and friends may not acknowledge the depth of grief brought on by the loss of a pet (?It?s just a dog?), the need for a period of bereavement, or the inability of a person to quickly replace the pet (?Just get another one?).

    If you are grieving the loss of a beloved pet, these strategies may help:


    • It is important to recognize the depth of feelings of the loss. Your pet may have been with you through the ups and downs in life and may have even helped you cope with other losses. Give yourself the necessary time and space to grieve. Individual, group, and family psychotherapy may be helpful to process the loss and make meaning of the pet in your life.
    • Keep focused on your daily and weekly schedules of personal and professional responsibilities, and make sure to incorporate pleasant activities for yourself into your days.
    • Identify triggers for your grieving and identify ways you can cope. Triggers can include the pet food aisle in the grocery store or driving by a special place you shared with your pet.
    • Try to find ways to meaningfully grieve. This can include creating a memory book, journaling, building a memorial, or donating money or time to a pet welfare cause.
    • Explore self-help groups at a local animal shelter or ASPCA. Almost all schools of veterinary medicine have telephone support hotlines. There are also a number of online community forums that allow people to receive support while they grieve and process their loss.


    Sources




    Related Information

    Coping with Grief and Loss: A guide to healing

  2. #2
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    Re: Coping with the loss of a pet

    Some social workers say our culture is "death phobic," and I think that is about right. In any case, it is hard to imagine the death of a loved one as not inherently traumatic.

    It was so depressing when I had to euthanize my old calico cat Sophie this year. I knew it would be, but I didn't realize it would be like losing my grandfather all over again. That feline was my only roommate for most of my adult existence. As the Buddhists say, everything is impermanent. But I really didn't want the reminder.

    Not wanting to tolerate the feelings of emptiness anymore, I started looking for another calico after only three days. And I did adopt a three year old calico, Annie. And it did help. Annie reminds me of Sophie a lot physically and emotionally, though Annie clearly has her own wonderful personality.

  3. #3
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    Re: Coping with the loss of a pet

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel View Post
    Not wanting to tolerate the feelings of emptiness anymore, I started looking for another calico after only three days. And I did find one. And it did help. It's like she was reincarnated but with a somewhat different personality.
    I waited quite a bit longer because I needed to get my health issues under better control before trying to look after another being, but it was a similar experience for me.

    I lost one older female cat, Ivy, (16-20 years) when she had to be euthanized. At the time, my ex and I also had a young male kitten, Stewie, about a year old. When she left (not long after we euthanized the older cat), she took the kitten with her - a double loss of cats.

    When I went looking a bit over a year later, I didn't specifically look for a cat that looked like either of them. I wanted a rescue cat and was drawn to the picture of a 6 year old female (Mindy) at the local Humane Society that I realize in retrospect bore some physical resemblance to both Ivy and Stewie but more to Ivy. When I went to the OHS to meet her, I felt an immediate connection and brought her home right away.

    I didn't expect this but I've found that Mindy does indeed have a personality that is similar in many even small respects to that of Ivy, as well as having a slight physical resemblance.

    Is that why I was drawn to the photo and why I felt an immediate connection when I met her? I'm a scientist by nature, not a spiritualist, but I do recognize that there are things in our experience that cannot yet be explained by science.

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