Losing a pet can be every bit as painful as losing someone close to you. However, you may not get the same level of sympathy. Even friends who are very kind may say 'it's only a cat!' (or dog/rabbit/gerbil/budgie....). They may think they are helping, but they are not. You can't get over your sadness by telling yourself you shouldn't feel it.
VALIDATE YOUR GRIEF. Your first step is to honour your feelings, and there are lots of reasons why you should. Keeping a pet isn't just a hobby, or something that you do because you're lonely. They aren't merely substitute humans, on which to pour second-grade sentiment, because you’re such a sad case you can’t get on with your own species! Pets have a special place in the scheme of things. They connect us to the natural world, with their simple ways, and if we are receptive to them they can change our relationship to the world around us for the better.
ANIMALS ARE SPECIAL. Animals are uniquely themselves - they don't pretend, or deceive. Often they bring out the best in us, calming us down and helping us to get things into perspective. An animal can give you a love and loyalty that is deeper, more constant and more pure than any human. It may also put up with prolonged neglect and ill-treatment without its devotion being damaged. Pets have been proven to bring healing and to extend the life-expectancy of their owners.
ANIMALS HAVE FEELINGS. I recently watched a YouTube video of a goat that pined when separated from its little donkey friend. When carers at the animal sanctuary realised what was happening they managed to reunite the pair - then the goat started feeding again and was obviously delighted. So animals have deep feelings and are capable of similar attachment to humans. Some people say animals are inferior because they accept their environment rather than analysing it and working to change it, like we do. But maybe there is a greater wisdom in the animal approach. Gandhi said that the evolvement of a nation can be seen in the way it treats its animals. So, by the same token, the heart of a person can be seen in their relationship with their pet
SAY GOODBYE PROPERLY. Hold a funeral for your pet just as you would a human. Of course there will be practical differences, but you can still have your memorial. Only invite people that you know will understand and see things your way. Or your may prefer to have a ceremony alone.
REMEMBER YOUR PET. Probably it will still feel as if your pet is close, but if you set aside times in the day to think about your pet, you may become aware that your pet is actually more than a memory. The animal that loved you in life often stays with you after death and you may sense their presence.
ANIMALS HAVE SOULS. When I lost my beloved cat, who had been my mate through thick and thin for fourteen years, I was devastated, but that all changed when he visited me in a vivid dream and told me he was fine and all was well. When we decide to have a pet, destiny is at work. Even when this is a conscious decision to buy a pedigree, rather than being adopted by a stray off the street, there is still an element of 'meant to be'. Chances are your beloved pet has been your companion in other lifetimes. One day you will be reunited, and because animals have shorter life-spans than we do, there is a good chance you may meet again in this life!
TALK ABOUT YOUR LOSS. Talking always helps. If you don't have a sufficiently sympathetic friend, our readers at The Circle will understand how you feel and are always available to give you the help you need.
GET ANOTHER PET. Some people find it hard to get another pet, feeling they are betraying the memory of their lost friend. Or you may feel your pet is irreplaceable. Of course they are, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy and love another animal, who will be special in their own way. People who have been happily married are the quickest to remarry after their spouse has died. In the same way, if you have been happy with your pet, pay it the compliment of trying to re-find some of that happiness. There are so many animals needing to be homed, so why not turn your loss to the good by welcoming a creature that needs you.
TheCircle has several blogs about losing a loved one and these can apply to animals, too. Check out Five Ways to Cope With Anniversaries and How Do I Say That Last Goodbye?
There is light – and lovely companionship - ahead.
PUBLISHED: 01 July 2014