Pet Bereavement

PET BEREAVEMENT

Introduction

We all grieve when we lose a Pet, this is a natural reaction because of the feelings we have are so special, the term is “the human-companion animal bond” and when broken there is a feeling of loss which can at times be overwhelming.  Often friends and relations do not offer a grieving pet owner much sympathy, and the comment of ….”it’s only a dog”…. or ….”Yes, she was a pretty cat”…. are the only words of sympathy or understanding frquently combined with the question ….”Are you going to get another one”…. Such comments would not be acceptable if you had lost a friend or family member and quite rightly you would receive emotional support.

It is generally accepted by Psychologists that although we need the same support when we lose a companion animal, as we do when we lose a family member or friend, we actually usually receive far less.

Veterinarians are also now beginning to realise that their final obligation to their patient also involves the owners grief, this at times is also very difficult because often the death of a pet is stressful even to professionals and they may find it easier to cope by detaching themselves – not always helpful to a grieving owner.

Euthanasia is always the most difficult choice for a pet owner – but frequently it is the right choice for your pet, certainly from the humane point of view.  Illness may prolong the suffering of both the pet and the owner.  Discuss euthanasia frankly with your vet.  If you wish, make sure you spend a little time with your pet to say “Goodbye”.

It is important to understand that the intravenous drug does not cause any pain, but you may wish to gently stroke the animal’s head and speak comfortingly as the drug is administered reassuring your pet as they go quietly to sleep as this will make a peaceful transition for you both.

Some owners may choose not to witness their pets passing, and say their “Goodbye” after they have passed on.  In these circumstances many Pet Crematoria provide for aftercare of the pet and owner, including facilities for your spending time in a Chapel of Rest prior to the cremation taking place.

HOW SHOULD I FEEL? 

When a pet dies there is no right way to feel or formalise the grief.  Services may be arranged through a pet crematorium where you may request a viewing time to say a final goodbye and have some of the pets effects placed with them.  It is very emotional  especially when the pet was an integral part of the family, it is often helpful to understand the grieving process because when a pet dies there is no ritual to formalise the grief, many would feel a funeral for the pet to be eccentric or bizarre, however the loss of a pet affects our emotions and the progress through several stages is detailed below.

YOU MUST SAY “GOODBYE”

At some point, if you have a pet, you will need to make final arrangements for your pet.  Licenced Pet Crematoria may be found by contacting your local Environment Agency with whom it is necessary to be licenced or as a Trade Federation we are also pleased to assist in finding the nearest facility in your area by consulting our Directory available on this site.  All crematoria offer different and varied facilities and services, it is helpful to visit a pet crematorium near you before you have the need to use one, it can be much easier emotionally to ask the questions which are important to YOU so that when the time comes you will not find it necessary to spend time looking for a pet crematorium which will meet your requirements.

Individual or Private Cremation of your pet will allow you time to decide what you would like to do with your pets remains, of course it is possible to bury the remains, scatter them in a favourite place, store them in a Columbarium (where additonal ashes may be placed together or alternatively you may join them when your time comes) or they may also be kept in a decorative urn or casket at home – the options are numerous.

It doies sometimes soften the impact of loss by placing a Memorial either in your home, garden, or favourite area or alternatively most crematoria have Memorial Gardens for this purpose, a place where you may visit and remember the happier times with your pet.  This may be combined with a landscaped area such as flowering trees, water features, rockery etc., a pleasant place to visit from time to time.

Questions you may wish to ask a Pet Crematorium when selecting one for your pet.

  • Is the Crematorium a member of any recognised independent Trade Federation?

  • Do I require a coffin for my pet?

  • Can I have an individual or private cremation with my pets ashes returned?

  • Do I get only my own pets ashes back?

  • How and in what are the ashes returned?

  • May I bring my pet to you?

  • Will you collect my pet if I do not feel able to bring them to your premises?

  • Is it possible to visit the premises before I need to bring a pet?

  • Do you have a Chapel of Rest where I cay say “Goodbye”?

  • Are there Memorial Gardens to visit, inter or scatter ashes?

  • May I have my pets details recorded into a Book of Remembrance?

  • Does the crematorium supply Memorials should I require one?

  • What is the cost and what does that cost include?

  • Do you have a brochure and or website I can view?

HOW DO I LEARN TO COPE?

There are several stages of grief that you must go through before the final resolution.

Stage One – Denial – Often the first response for many pet owners giving them a buffer against the sharp emotional shock.

Stage Two – Bargaining – Faced with an impending loss often bargains are made offering conditions should the pet be spared, such as ‘If Sooty gets better, I will walk him every day……never put him in kennels again……never get cross with him when…..’

Stage Three – Anger – This is part of the grieving process, but anger can be obvious by showing hostility and agression, or the anger may be turned inward and show as guilt.  Sometimes this anger can be shown towards the vet who has been caring in the form of questions like “what happened? I thought you were looking after my dog but you killed him!” or “You never really liked Sammy you just took my money now I’ve lost my pet!”

All outbursts help to relieve frustrations but this is usually at the expense of someone else.  Owners also often dwell on the past, “If only…..” the regrets are endless.  It really makes no difference whether these doubts are founded or not, recriminations do little to relieve the anger.  Speaking to someone who has been through a similar experience can often help.

Stage Four – Grief – True sadness that the pet is gone, together with guilt, anger and the emptiness which remains.  This is the time when you really need the help and support of family and friends, but sadly often difficult to find.  Lack of proper support prolongs the grief stage so it may be that the pet owner will wish to seek help from a pet crematorium or professional counsellor.

Be assured that it is normal and is acceptable for you to display grief when a companion animal dies, it is also helpful to recognise that other pet owners have experienced similar strong emotions and that you are certainly not alone in this feeling of grief.  Do not ever feel embarrassed or ashamed, your pain is very real and your loss heavy.

The Final Stage – Resolution – All things pass in time – even grief, as time passes by the sadness evolves into remembering the happy times, and often help comes in the form of another pet or companion animal to fill the void.  Always remember you are NOT replacing your beloved friend, nothing and knowone could do that, you are merely filling a very deep void in your heart with love for a new companion -

Time to complete the healing.