Written by: Nancy Kay Clark, BSB/M, CVT Morris Animal Foundation
Understanding Pet Loss and Grief
Do you remember the first dog you knew? What about the first one you loved? Sadie was a basset hound. Mellow to the bone, ears in her water bowl, low and slow and even-keeled. I was just a young girl, and Sadie lived at my level. She let me pull on her ears, dress her up, and hug her whenever I needed. Dogs, like Sadie, affect our lives deeply and often are the first to teach us about unconditional love.
Our capacity as human beings to love directly correlates to our capacity to grieve. Our pets have a way of entwining into our lives so deeply that when they die, they leave us feeling lost and unfocused. Our friends and family often are unsure what to say or do, and others may not understand the depth of our grief.
Everyone mourns in their own way, and there is no timeline or formula for processing loss. However there are some tools we can use to help ourselves and those we care for during the grieving process:
No one grieves on a prescribed timeline. Everyone is different, and some losses take longer than others to process. Be gentle with yourself and honor the time it takes to heal.
Tell the story of your loss to those with whom you feel safe sharing it. Share about the loss, but also share about the life of your pet.
Find and make use of your support system. Understand that not everyone knows how to be supportive of someone grieving.
While connections are helpful, also recognize there will be times you need to retreat and recharge. Grieving drains your energy and you may need more quiet time to recharge than you normally take.
Pay attention to your self-talk. If your emotions are spiraling out of control, you may need additional support.
If you know someone who is grieving the loss of a pet, the best thing you can do is be a good companion. You can’t fix it for them, but you can help them heal by being there for them. Let them know you are thinking about them.
Memorials There are many ways we can memorialize a beloved pet, such as creating a memory box, a video tribute, planting a tree or contributing to a charitable organization. Morris Animal Foundation has many ways to honor the loved ones who have made such an impact on our lives, including a memorial card program. Through this program, you can make a gift in honor of a beloved pet and Morris Animal Foundation will send a card letting the recipient know that a gift has been made in honor of their pet that will help all animals live healthier lives.
About Morris Animal Foundation
Morris Animal Foundation is a nonprofit organization that invests in science to advance animal health. The Foundation is a global leader in funding scientific studies for companion animals, horses and wildlife. Since its founding in 1948, Morris Animal Foundation has invested more than $100 million toward 2,400 studies that have led to significant breakthroughs in diagnostics, treatments, preventions and cures for animals worldwide. Learn more at morrisanimalfoundation.org.
Orvis is proud to sponsor the work of the Morris Animal Foundation through its Cover Dog Photo Contest. All proceeds benefit MAF’s canine cancer research. To date over $1,000,000 has been raised.