is keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or
loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret, according to
my circle of friends, there is almost always someone who
is grieving over the death of a well-loved pet.
most of us have lost at least one dog, cat, hamster or
guinea pig that we have been inordinately attached to.
this year, as many as five of my friends have had a cat
or dog pass over the Rainbow Bridge.
each one asks: "How do I cope with losing my best
friend, one that has been with me through thick and
thin? One who loves me even when I canít stand
that someone who has never had a animal/human
relationship wonít understand your pain. Donít allow
them to diminish your grief. Statements such as "Itís
only a cat" or "You can get another one"
only make you feel more lonely. Mental health experts
understand that your grief is your own and no one else
can tell you how to feel.
University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
advises that when a person has little or no support to
deal with the loss of a pet, the grief and mourning can
feel overwhelming and isolating.
human-animal bond represents the types of relationships
we have with our companion animals. We form these
relationships for many reasons: physical, social,
emotional and psychological," according to a report
from the schoolís Specialty Care Services titled
"Pet Loss and Bereavement Information for Pet
week, one of my friends lost her companion of 10 years.
She wrote about Jakeís death on a blog, giving all her
friends and associates in animal rescue the opportunity
to express their sorrow for her loss.
friend told me she received more sympathy cards after
her beloved Labrador retriever, Caleb, died than she did
following her motherís death.
as a group we are more fortunate than most to have the
support of friends who share an understanding of the
depth of feeling we have for our pets when that bond is
what does the average person do?
Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, PhD., and Robert Segal
writing for Helpguide.org, a nonprofit resource for
supporting better mental health, offer this advice:
let anyone tell you how to feel and donít tell
yourself how you should feel.
out to others who have lost pets. Check online message
boards, pet loss hotlines and pet loss support groups.
can help healing. A funeral can help you and your family
members openly express feelings.
after yourself. The stress of losing a pet can quickly
deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Eat healthy
foods, get lots of sleep and exercise to release
endorphins to lift your mood.
loss of a companion animal may be doubly debilitating
for seniors. If you are or know someone mourning the
death of a pet he or she could try these methods for
getting past the grief:
to find new meaning and joy in life. Fill the time you
would normally give your pet with volunteering, picking
up a long-neglected hobby, taking a class or helping
friends care for their pets.
connected with friends. Pets often help seniors meet new
people and regularly connect with friends and neighbors
on walks. Try to spend time with at least one person
every day to help ward off depression.
vitality with exercise. Staying active can help boost
the immune system and increase energy.
is it always a good idea to immediately go out and get a
new pet after the loss of a well-loved one?
as much as I love saying "Puppies heal the
heart," the answer is a personal one that only you
can make for yourself. In most cases, itís best to
mourn the old pet first, and wait until youíre
emotionally ready to open your heart to a new animal.
C.A.R.E. (Companion Animal Related Emotions Pet Loss
Helpline), a confidential telephone service offered
through the University of Illinois College of Veterinary
Medicine on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6
to 8 Eastern time at 877-394-CARE (2273). For more