Goodbye, Fluffy: How To Deal With The Loss Of A Pet
STORY: Amanda Lee
18 May 2020
Just as the title suggests, this article is about dealing with the loss of a pet and never forgetting about it. Because the truth is, you never forget.
Most of the time, pets form an indescribable bond with their owners. I’ve lost people... but nothing has broken me more than losing a beloved pet.
I still remember very clearly the day I lost my bunny to a fall – she broke her spine. She was screaming in pain and I felt paralysed with many emotions. I was looking into her eyes and holding her to my chest throughout the car ride to the vet, and that was when I saw her pupils getting smaller and smaller. I knew that was the moment she was gone.
Her death was absolutely traumatic for me and left a deep, unhealed emotional scar. But it has not stopped me from opening up my heart to loving other animals. I know that is what my little Snowi would have wanted.
If you’re reading this, it might be because you, too, have lost a pet, or you want to help someone who has. Or maybe you could be preparing yourself for the inevitable. Here are some ways that will help to make saying goodbye a little easier.
1. Keep mementos
Clearing out Snowi’s stuff was painful. I was a huge mess. But what really helped was to keep things that reminded me of her, like her little poops in a tiny jar (sounds gross, but rabbit poop has no odour and makes great fertiliser).
If it helps, splurge on things like a necklace with a paw print that has your pet’s name on it, or getting a portrait of them painted. Get a customised phone case or change your wallpaper to that of your pet. The idea is to remember, not to forget. When it comes to their ashes, keep them or don’t – whichever helps.
2. Go on a “rebound”
When your heart is empty, sometimes, it’s easier to cope if you let someone else in. For myself, I adopted two bunnies, and that really helped with my grieving process. I didn’t replace Snowi, but I took all that love I had for her and put it into two other wonderful boys that needed a home. Of course, if you don’t feel ready, don’t force yourself to do this.
Remember, looking after a pet is a huge commitment, no matter its life span. When you’re ready, consider adopting from shelters because there are many animals that have been abandoned and abused, and are in need of homes. Let’s give them a second chance at life, shall we?
3. Have a support system
Speak to someone who has shared a similar loss. No one is going to understand your pain completely, but someone with a similar experience will relate to you better.
HELPING YOUR PET'S PARTNER
1. Be strong in front of them
If the pet that passed has a partner, how do you help them cope? Be strong. Mammals have the potential to experience a range of emotions, both basic and complex – including feeling sad and depressed. I can’t confirm this but I speak from my own experience: my rabbit who is bonded to me will come up to me when I’m having a bad day and crying. It’s pretty amazing. I strongly believe that animals can tell when you are sad and will reflect the same energy.
2. Start over
If a pet’s partner has passed away, the best thing you can do for the surviving one is to help them forget. This means starting afresh and getting rid of everything that has the deceased pet’s smell. An animal could get depressed and frustrated if they smell their partner but don’t see them.
Rearranging furniture could also help change habits that were created together, like their favourite chilling spot etc. You might remember, but helping them to move on is important: depression for your pet’s partner can lead to its loss of appetite and other internal issues.
3. Keep them engaged
This can be done by giving them treats at random times of the day, thus disrupting their daily routine and creating a new one. It will also be good to have some environmental noises so that they will not feel too lonely. New toys help keep their minds active as well. Shower them with treats!
Losing a pet is never easy, but know that they were blessed to have you, and that you gave them the best life you could. In some cases, they had you their whole lives. Now, you have a chance to make that same impact on the lives of other deserving creatures, too.