Love, Always

Saying goodbye to a pet: how to cope with the loss of your best furry friend.

There’s so much to marvel about in our world. So much to celebrate.

The gift of being able to take deep breaths, stretch, walk, run, dance, think, hug, laugh … the list is endless.

But ask any pet lover what makes their heart sing, and you can bet what’s number one on their list: their furry friend.

Sadly, though, our pets aren’t designed to live as long as we humans do.

Someday — hopefully not anytime soon! — be it due to illness, accident or old age, you’re going to have to say “goodbye” to your furry companion.

I know, firsthand, how devastating that kind of loss can be.

And if you’re struggling to cope with the loss of a pet, this one’s for you.

Please take good care of yourself, and remember that it’s perfectly OK to …

1. Grieve in your own way. Every person is unique.

Every pet is unique. Every relationship is unique — and everyone grieves differently. Don’t let anyone tell you “how long” you should grieve or “what’s appropriate” to feel.

Yes, there may be times when you have to temporarily put your emotions on “hold” and tend to them, later — like when you’re giving a presentation at work, or getting your kids ready for school.

But don’t bottle up those feelings forever. Once you’re back in a safe, private space, cry as much as you need to. Your body will tell you when it’s time to stop. You will know.

2. Take time alone … just to “be.”

Time, with just you and your thoughts — meditating, walking, running or simply resting at home. Try not to distract yourself by watching a lot of television, overeating or numbing yourself with alcohol. That will just delay the pain until later — and actually make it much worse.

3. Take time to reflect … on the beauty of your pet’s life.

All of those wonderful experiences that you shared. The company, the companionship, the camaraderie, the friendship, the opportunity to give and receive love unconditionally.

4. Talk to your pet … if it feels right.

Many people like to talk to their pets after they’ve passed, and thank them for being in their lives. You can say things to your pet that you never had a chance to say, when he or she was alive. You can write a letter or a poem. Make up a song. Or just talk out loud while you’re driving to work or tidying up the house. Expressing your feelings, in any way you choose, is very therapeutic

5. Have a ceremony … if it feels right.

Some people choose to hold a simple ceremony with immediate family and close friends; others have a bigger ceremony with many more friends. Some people like to plant a tree as a living memorial for their pet; others volunteer at a shelter or donate to a pet charity.

And finally — although it may be tempting — try to resist the urge to rush out and get another pet, right away.

That’s a bit like rushing into a new romantic relationship immediately after the death of a spouse, or a divorce. It’s just too soon.

Take your time, and remember, most of all, that you are a kinder, more patient and loving person, because of the time that you shared with your pet.

And your pet enjoyed a beautiful life, because of you.

All of those experiences, those memories, the positive ripple effect on your life, the love that you shared … those treasures can never be taken away.