Pet Loss and the Importance of Saying ‘Goodbye’
Many of us would choose to be present when that time comes that we all dread – when our pet has to be euthanised. However, the current Coronavirus crisis has meant that we may be prevented from staying with our pet at the end and this can cause a great deal of distress to someone who would have otherwise chosen to be present.
When a human dies, we attend a funeral, enabling us to say goodbye and share our pain and grief with other mourners. However, that doesn’t happen with a pet, so I am writing here about the importance of finding another way to say ‘goodbye’, even if we were not able to be present at the end. This can help to process the thoughts and feelings that the distress might trigger and may help to prevent the grief becoming ‘stuck’ or complicated in its nature.
In order to move through the mourning process healthily, it is important to unload the thoughts and feelings associated with the loss and there are a number of ways of doing this. Here are some:
- calling or emailing the Blue Cross PBSS helpline to unload what they are thinking and feeling (0800 096 6606 or email@example.com)
- writing them down in a journal or notebook
- saying them out loud – perhaps to a photograph of the pet
- writing a letter to the pet, expressing how they feel
- talking to the pet near their favourite place or in the garden
- creating an online tribute with the Blue Cross PBSS
- visualising themselves having a conversation with their pet, wherever they believe her or him to be right now
Many of us would choose to be present when that time comes that we all dread – when our pet has to be euthanised.
But why is it so important to say goodbye? Saying goodbye has a number of benefits, including the following:
- giving you permission to acknowledge your loss
- giving you permission to acknowledge your pain and grief, instead of pretending it doesn’t exist
- bringing home the reality of your loss (an important part of the grieving process)
- enabling you to honour your own cultural values about death and where you believe your pet is now
- giving others, if present, permission to express, openly, their grief
- giving you permission to talk openly about your deceased pet
- enabling you and others to acknowledge the good memories
- making it okay to ‘let go’
- providing an opportunity to shift your focus on your pet from a physical presence to a mental and spiritual one
- enabling you to tell your pet’s story, if you wish
- enabling you to assess the worth you placed on her or him, which helps to legitimise your pain
- enabling you to express how your role and identity have now changed
- enabling you to reflect upon what happened, how and why
- to put it simply, it is good for your mental health.