Grieving the Loss of a Pet After Euthanasia

Losing a pet is hard. But when you have to make the difficult decision to choose pet euthanasia, guilt is added to the grief, which can make coping gruelling. Even when you know it was the best decision, many feelings of self-doubt, pain, isolation and denial can creep in, affecting your ability to go about your day-to-day life. But go on you must. Here are a few tips to help you on your journey to healing:

Questions to Ask Before Putting a Pet to Sleep

Before you make the difficult decision of putting your pet to sleep, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your pet have an incurable disease or illness?
  • Does your pet have a serious injury that may affect its quality of life?
  • What is your pet’s quality of life?
  • Is your pet in pain all the time?
  • Has your pet lost interest in things it used to love?
  • Has your pet stopped eating and drinking like it used to?
  • Does your pet have incontinence?
  • Is your pet behaving unusually?

Oftentimes, knowing it is time to let your pet go is a no-brainer. This may be because your pet is in the last stages of cancer, or may have reached old age and is finding it difficult to live from day to day. A qualified vet may be able to help you make the right decision.

Coping with the death of a pet

  • Prepare yourself

Once you have asked yourself the questions above and consulted the vet and come to the conclusion that euthanasia is the best and only option, you may be overcome with grief. It marks the end of a long, very intimate relationship, and being prepared for it can help you cope with it better. Every person feels pain differently, but the most common stages are: denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance.

Spend time with your pet, and indulge in all their favourite activities. Pamper them and shower them with affection in their final days, so they can leave this world knowing they were loved.

  • Get support

Our pets become part of our family, and losing them can be just as gut-wrenching as losing a close family member. In spite of this, people who lose their pet are less likely to be met with as much sympathy, and many workplaces do not consider losing a pet to be grounds for bereavement leave. For fear of being judged, or told to “get over it” or “get a new pet”, many pet owners isolate themselves from friends and family and grieve alone.

It is important to not push family and friends away in this trying time and share your feelings to help them understand what you are going through. Alternatively, a therapist may be able to help provide you much needed support and provide strategies for coping.

  • Change in routines

A pet may not just leave a hole in your heart when they leave, you may also find yourself with more time to spare during the day. This is because the time that you used to spend talking your dog out for a walk, playing with your cat, making their food and feeding them, cleaning litter boxes etc is now free. These periods of free time may end up reminding you of your pet even more and may disrupt your everyday routine.

It is important to keep yourself busy and distracted by filling these empty time slots with fun, meaningful activities; such as going out with friends, spending time with family, going to the park, picking up a hobby or volunteering at a local animal shelter. Not only will it distract you from the loss you are facing, but it will also help you get back into a normal routine.

  • Grieve

No two people grieve the same way. You may feel anger, betrayal, guilt, depression and acceptance, sometimes all in one day. Allow yourself to feel all the emotions you are feeling and give yourself time to process all these feelings. Honour your pet by reminiscing about all the good times you have had with them and then find a way to let go.

  • Let go of guilt

At some point during the grieving process, you will be hit with overwhelming feelings of guilt and may start to second guess your decision to choose pet euthanasia. You may find yourself asking yourself questions like these:

  • Did I make the right decision?
  • Maybe he/she could have been treated?
  • Did I act too soon or too late?
  • Did I give up on my pet? Does my pet hate me? Was he/she stressed and scared at the end? Did I betray their trust?
  • Maybe my pet had more time to live and I should have found an alternative.

If any of these thoughts crossed your mind, it means you are highly likely to be a pet owner that did everything in their power to give your pet a great life. Remember, the decision you made wasn’t whether your pet lived or died, it was choosing to minimise their suffering.

  • Acknowledge the loss

Denial can set us back several steps in our journey to acceptance. You just went through a major ordeal and a part of healing is accepting it happened. Once you find it in yourself to acknowledge your loss and start moving forward, you’ll find the pain fading. It may take some time to return to normal, but that’s okay. There’s no right way or right time to reach the acceptance stage.

  • Getting a new pet

Finally, while a new pet will never be able to take the place of the one you lost, at some point, you should start considering it. But getting one right after one’s death is never a good idea, as it can be disrespectful to your old pet. The best way to know you are ready for a new pet is when you stop expecting the pet to be a replacement of the one that passed.

If you’re unsure of whether pet euthanasia is the way to go, or need a second opinion, or have made the decision to put a beloved pet to sleep, consider choosing mobile vets so your pet is able to say goodbye in a place they’re comfortable in.

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