Pets are a vital part of many people’s lives. You might have an individual who never had any human children, and they regard their pets as their kids. You also could have a large family that does not feel complete without the cats, dogs, and other pets that contribute to their overall happiness.
While having pets is wonderful, humans live longer than cats or dogs, so the unfortunate reality is that you’re going to outlive your pet unless you happen to be elderly or some accident befalls you.
When your pet gets old, and you know you’re going to have to part from them soon, that can be tough on your whole family. Then, the moment arrives, and you have to say goodbye.
That’s never going to be easy. Let’s talk about strategies that can help get you through it.
Mourn as a Family
There is no doubt that the whole family will go through some emotional distress when that pet dies. There is never an easy way for a pet to go. At least if the animal is very old, though, you can all prepare yourselves mentally for the inevitable day as it approaches.
If you have a situation where a car hits your cat or dog, or they get sick and die very unexpectedly, that can be much more traumatic. You anticipated you would have many more years with the animal, and now that will not be the case.
Either way, you need to be there to comfort each other. Adults feel things just as poignantly as children do, but if you’re one of the family’s adults, it’s up to you to be strong for the kids.
If they’re very young, they might want to talk to you about death at this point, if this is their first experience with it. You will have to decide how honest you want to be with the child.
If you feel like they will benefit if you tell them that your beloved pet went to heaven, it does no harm to say that. If you tell them no one knows what happens to pets when they die, that might be more accurate, but it will probably make it harder for very young children to process the event.
Talk to a Counselor if You Need To
You might decide you feel bad enough that you want to speak to a mental health professional about the pet’s death, either by yourself or as a family. That is becoming more normal these days, as most therapists understand that a pet can be just as vital to a family as another human being.
If you need to take a little time off from work, you can do that. You’ll have to realize, though, that some jobs will not be so understanding of the grieving process if you tell them you’re mourning a pet instead of a human.
You can always tell your boss there has been a death in the family, but don’t go into specifics. That should be enough to buy you at least a little time if you feel like you need it.
You Can Keep the Animal with You
Some families want to keep an urn or a decorative box with the animal’s ashes after you cremate them. You might keep them on your mantle or a shelf alongside a nice picture of the pet if you have one.
Some families like to do this, but others think it’s morbid and prefer not to. You’ll have to use your best judgment as to whether you think that’s a good idea or not. It might upset the children more to keep the animal’s ashes, but you can talk to them about it to see how they’re feeling.
Time Will Heal the Wound
You should also understand that time will lessen the hurt that you’re all feeling right after the animal passes. That hurt might not ever go away completely, but humans are not meant to mourn forever, and in time, the feelings should at least lessen somewhat.
You will always remember the animal fondly, but the pain will not be as sharp a year or five years later. You might even consider getting a new animal.
It will never replace the old one, but it will bring some joy back into your life. The whole family might find that’s the healthiest thing, but you should wait until you feel totally ready to welcome a new addition.