Emotional Needs Following Pet Euthanasia

C. Kelly Photo

Photo by C. Kelly Photo.

The loss of a pet is sometimes not appreciated by those who have had no similar experiences or can’t relate to a pet as a loved one. When a loss happens, there are steps to deal with the pain. The first thing to realize is that your feelings of grief and sadness are real. Your pet provided you with joy and meaning in your daily routine.

Let yourself feel the sadness, and express it in many forms. Do not bottle up the feelings of loss within yourself. If you do so, the grieving process will not continue and you may not be able to again risk living with and loving a pet. Pet-support hotlines affiliated with humane societies and veterinary schools are readily available. They are staffed with people that understand your loss and are ready to listen and lend support.

One of the more difficult emotional problems is how to tell children. Be honest about the problems their pet was having and how the suffering was ended. Encourage them to share their feelings with you as well.

As a family, a memorial ceremony or gathering is a ritual that can help. It helps acknowledge the reality that a death has occurred. It gives a share time to contemplate what has happened and reconcile the old reality with the new one.

The community aspect of the gathering in support helps bond and encourages others to express feelings of grief. A proper goodbye helps everyone go forward.

You can make this ceremony formal or informal, indoors or outdoors, with your pet’s ashes in an urn or a burial pod. Before the ceremony, allow children to draw a picture or write a letter to their pet. This is a powerful tool in the healing process. Start the ceremony by reading a poem or sharing memories about the pet, especially when it first entered your household. Give each child a chance to say something, if they wish. Flowers, plants or special toys can be placed on the burial pod or casket. Periods of silence are also important.

If you choose to keep your pet’s ashes, a number of websites carry urns for this purpose. If your pet is buried in a burial pod in the ground, place a marker there for a visit any time it might be needed. We use biodegradable burial pods from a company called PawPods. They have an array of products to help in the burial of pets from goldfish up large dogs. You can order their products through us or directly from their website.


Paw Pods

Photo courtesy of LBAH.

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