Grieving pet loss as a family is a beautiful way to support each other. The loss of a pet is not just a personal loss—it is a loss that can reverberate through a whole family. As any pet is part of the family, pet loss can be sad or heartbreaking for everyone. A hole can open up that the pet once filled, and it can be challenging to learn how to fill the hole.
Grieving Pet Loss as A Family
When a beloved companion reaches the end of their life it enables a family to depend on each other for support and healing. A family can show each other how to cope, listen, and share feelings. and mourn the pet together. As a family, you can keep your pet’s memory alive and move through the seven stages of grief together until you are ready to move on.
Pet loss grief is always painful. But it is easier when you are not alone. Grieving pet loss as a family can open up many ways of support and can make each family member feel stronger and more resilient through their pet loss grief journey.
Helping Children through Pet Loss Grief
Children often have special bonds with the family pet. They also may have never encountered death before. This can make the grieving time unique for children.
You may panic and wonder how to break the news to your child. While grieving pet loss as a family is not a pleasant thing, it is helpful to view it as an opportunity to help your child develop a healthy attitude about the reality of death.
Always be honest with your children. Include them in the decision-making process for a pet’s end of life care and funeral planning. When your pet passes away, explain what death is to your children and tell them how they may expect to feel. Do not make up stories about how your family pet simply ran away or joined the circus, as this robs your children of the chance to grieve in a healthy manner.
Tell your children that you are there for them. When they share their feelings, listen and tell them that they are experiencing something normal called grief. Encourage them to mourn, or grieve outwardly, by having a funeral for the pet and creating memorials together. Also let them know that is okay to grieve and you are there for them if they ever want to talk about their feelings.
My book Healing a Child’s Pet Loss Grief will help you learn how to approach the subject of pet loss with your child. It includes tips for coping and teaching your child how to handle grief without buying into harmful myths about pet loss.
Grieving Pet Loss as A Family
Talking about the pet loss together can help you all grieve together. Grieving pet loss as a family entails working together as a unit.
Remember that grieving is an internal process that helps you acclimate to a new normal after a pet has passed on. Sharing that internal process with your family can help you heal faster because you don’t feel alone.
The Rollercoaster of Emotions When Grieving Pet Loss as A Family
When you feel stricken with anger, guilt, sadness, or any other emotions, turn to your family for support. Tell them how you feel and let them show you love and share your feelings. Your family can be an amazing source of emotional support if you open yourself up to them.
In turn, you should provide the same support to your family members. When one of your family members cries, offer him or her a hug. When someone feels guilty for the pet’s death or for not spending enough time with him while he was alive, reassure him or her that the pet was happy in your home.
To Take the Pain Out of The Grief Process
When ready your family can set aside a time each day to talk about the good times you shared with your pet, reflect on fond memories, and share how much you each loved your family pet. When you share the good times, you tend to inspire more happy feelings about the pet’s life instead of negative feelings about his death.
Remembering Your Pet Together
Each family member had a separate interaction with the family pet. Thus, everyone has a unique memory to share. Remembering the family pet together is an excellent way to bond with your family and heal together.
Plan the funeral together
A helpful way to mourn a family pet is to have a family funeral. Each person can contribute something, such as a poem, song, or eulogy. Allow each family member to pick an item to bury the pet with, if you are having a burial. Alternatively, you can all decide what you wish to do with his urn. Grieving pet loss as a family calls for each family member to take part in the process in his or her own way with a contribution.
Encourage each family member to come up with a way to keep the pet’s memory alive in the household. Remind everyone that just because your faithful friend is no longer with you in the physical sense, his spirit and memory will never die.
Therefore, each of you can make a craft to preserve his memory. The kids can work on making picture frames or holiday decorations featuring his or her photo. You can find a way to memorialize a beloved companion’s favorite bone or kitty bowl. Someone could even work on a pet loss poem to read at holidays or on particularly sad days.
You can take a notebook or shoebox and fill it with memories. Each family member can contribute something to the memorial. Building a memorial like this together enables you to create a lasting tribute to your pet, which all of you can look at any time you miss him.
Get a New Pet Together
When you feel ready to get a new pet, involve your entire family in the process. You should get a new family member only when everyone feels ready for it.
Together, you can visit shelters and rescue agencies to decide on the newest addition to your family.
Remind your family that a new companion is not going to replace your old pet. Your old pet continues to live on in your hearts forever. However, a new pet can bring new experiences and memories that will be just as special.
If your family does not want a new pet, that is okay. Sometimes, your family’s well-being is enhanced by not getting a new friend, at least not yet. Do what is best for everyone involved.
Wendy Van de Poll, MS, CEOL is a certified pet loss grief coach, bestselling author, animal medium and communicator. Through her experience and working with others she teaches folks… grief needs attention so that it can teach the profound lessons of life. You can reach Wendy by clicking here. She also has many books on Amazon to help you on your journey. Her newest is Pet Loss Poems: To Heal Your Heart and Soul