Pets today are living longer than ever before, and that’s a good thing! A long, happy life for our pets is the goal of every Guardian. The longer our pets live, and we enjoy a positive relationship with them, the closer and tighter the bond becomes. We depend on them, and they rely on us.
Eventually, as pet’s age, many Guardians are faced with making final decisions for their pets. A decision concerning the end of life may be one of the most difficult and challenging decisions a Guardian family will ever make for the pet. Still, it may become necessary for the welfare of the animal. The veterinarian and friends can assist and support, but the decision must be a family decision, especially if there are children. Everyone must consider what is best for the pet and understand that quality of life is as vital for pets as it is for people.
Considering End of Life
If the pet can no longer do the things they once enjoyed, and if there is more pain than pleasure in their lives, it may be necessary to consider what’s best. As you make your decision, you may wish to discuss the care of the remains of your pet’s body with your family and veterinarian. You have several options, and your veterinarian can provide information about burial, cremation, or other alternatives.
Encourage family members to express their thoughts and feelings. It is important that family members, especially children, have their feelings considered. Children have special relationships with their pets. Excluding or protecting children from this decision-making process, because they are thought to be too young to understand, may only complicate their grieving. Children respect straightforward, truthful, and simple answers. If they are prepared adequately, children can usually accept a pet’s death.
The act of saying goodbye is an important step in managing the natural and healthy feelings of grief, sorrow, and a sense of loss. Pets are an important part of the family, and it is natural to feel the loss. Once the decision has been made, family members may want to say goodbye. The last evening at home or a visit to the pet at the hospital may be appropriate. Family members who want to be alone with the animal should be allowed to do so. Farewells are always difficult.
After the Final Farewell
It is natural and healthy to feel grief and sorrow. The grieving process includes accepting the reality of the loss and adjusting to anew life that no longer includes the pet. There are many signs of grief, but not everyone experiences them all, or in the same order. Even before death has occurred, many deny the pet is sick or no longer able to experience pleasure in life. Anger may follow denial. It can be directed toward the people that are usually loved and respected, including the family and the veterinarian.
Guilt and depression may follow, and this is when there can be the greatest sense of loss. Once the family comes to terms with their feelings, they can begin to resolve and accept your pet’s death. With time, sad feelings will be replaced with fond memories. Grieving is a personal process. Some people take longer than others to come to terms with denial, anger, guilt, or depression. Family members should be reassured that sorrow and grief are normal and natural responses to death.
Often, well-meaning friends may not realize how important a pet was to the family. It is essential for everyone to be honest about how they feel.
If a family member has great difficulty in accepting the pet’s death and cannot resolve feelings of grief and sorrow, it may be appropriate to discuss the concerns with a person trained to understand the grieving process such as a grief counselor, clergyman, social worker, or psychologist. At Pet Planet, we certainly understand the loving relationship and loss, and we can direct you to community resources, such as a pet loss support group.
The death of a pet can upset family members emotionally, especially when euthanasia is involved. Some may feel they would never want another pet. A new pet may help others get over the loss more quickly. Just as grief is a personal experience, the decision of when, if ever, to bring a new pet into the home is also personal. Family members should agree on the appropriate time to acquire a new pet. Although you can never replace the pet, you can get another one to share your life.
The period from birth to old age is much briefer in pets than in people. Death is part of the life cycle for all creatures. It cannot be avoided, but its impact can be met with understanding and compassion. Try to recall the good times spent with the pet. By remembering the pleasure of those times, the family can realize the beloved pet was worthy of the grief. The family may also wish to establish a memorial of some type in honor of the pet.
In many communities, there are support groups specifically designed to help with pet’s loss. To find one, contact your local Humane Society, Animal Shelter, or Veterinary Clinic.
Many Guardians want to acknowledge the gift their pet had given their family and friends by making a donation in memory of the pet or in some other way to commemorate the devotion and commitment given freely by their loving companion. Many local and national organizations rely on donations, including local shelters, animal cancer foundations, veterinary research into specific medical conditions, and many other charitable groups. Giving is a great way to grieve.