Pet owner grieving holding empty leash coping with guilt after losing a pet

Coping with Feelings of Guilt After Losing a Pet

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We know that pets are so much more than just pets. They are our companions. Our sidekicks. Our exercise buddies. Our friends through good times and bad. Most importantly, they are special members of our family. And when we have to say goodbye to members of our family, it hurts. Losing a pet can leave owners feeling a full array of emotions from sadness, to anger, to grief, and many times, guilt. Learn a few ways to cope with this guilt after the loss of a pet. 

Losing A Pet: What Am I Feeling? 

As mentioned above, losing a pet can send us through a whirlwind of emotions. While it’s important not to rush this painful process, it is important to periodically discern the facts from the feelings as you work through this loss.

Recognize that in this grieving process, it’s very easy to feel guilty without being guilty. Guilt often derives from our natural need to rationalize a painful circumstance, and make sense of the seemingly senseless, like loss. 

We can spend days and weeks berating ourselves with questions like: “Why didn’t I notice anything was wrong, “Why didn’t I take him/her to the vet,” or “Why didn’t I spend more time with them?”

While this is a natural and valid response in this difficult time, it’s important to bring yourself back to your intentionality during your pet’s life, and there you’ll see that your intentions and motivations were pure and based in love throughout their life. You have done the best you could have, during an impossibly difficult circumstance surrounding the end of your pet’s life. ‘Should-haves’ and ‘could-haves’ are always present, but are also things you are unable to change, and must do your best to remember the good times.

Honor Your Pet

One way to cope with the rush of emotions surrounding the loss is to use this time to celebrate and honor the life of your furry family member. Honoring your pet during these times can help you feel more connected to them, and can serve as a reminder of just how much they were loved by you during your time together.

Allow yourself to revisit some of your best days with your pet during the grieving process. Visit the places you and your pet built memories, like favorite walking spots, parks, lakes and more. Doing this with other family members, especially younger children who have felt the loss can help them realize that loss, while hard, is a natural part of life. Use this to show them that the time that you all shared with your pet was impactful. Revisiting and experiencing vivid memories of your pet in these locations is a reminder that this was what life was like together, not the pain and sorrow of the present. 

Find Community

In times of tragedy and loss, it’s important to remember that you are NOT alone. Organizations like the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB) have a variety of resources, as well as communities to connect you with others who are experiencing the same feelings you are during this difficult time. 

Be Compassionate 

It’s important to be gentle with yourself as you grow through this season of life. Be compassionate towards yourself as you take time to grieve. Release yourself from the feelings of guilt by taking the pressure off of yourself to be a perfect pet owner. Your pets expect fun and love, but not perfection! They enjoyed a happy life by your side. Honor that memory and the time you spent together. 

At Midlands Pet Care, we’re here to compassionately guide you through a difficult time with understanding, dignity, and respect. We offer a full range of personalized services to honor your pets as family members, from cremation to burial, let us provide the best end-of-life option for your pet. Check out our memorial items as well for something to remember your pet by. 

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