Frequently Asked Questions
How long does the grieving process take?
The process is different for everyone. Just as in mourning the loss of a human companion, it may take weeks, or months or even years. There is no “correct” length of time for grief, since we each experience the stages at different rates and in different orders. See Understanding the Stages of Grief
You can help yourself and others cope with grief in a number of ways. The articles on this website provide suggestions, and resources that can guide you through that process.
Why am I the only one in my family to be so upset? Am I crazy to hurt so much over the loss of an animal?
Perhaps your bond with your pet was stronger, or perhaps you find it easier to express your grief.
Each of us experiences our relationships with our pets differently. What’s more, we each cope with grief in different ways. You may find that the suggestions for Creating a Memorial or the Words of Inspiration pages of this website helpful.
My children are very young. Should I tell them what happened to our pet?
The loss of a pet can often be a child’s first encounter with death and, as such, can be a “teachable” moment - depending upon the child’s age.
While death is a difficult subject to discuss, it’s important to spend time talking about it with them. Give them simple, honest answers to their questions and don’t tell them more than they ask to hear. For more advice, see Helping your Child Deal with the Loss of a Pet.
Will my other pets notice and mourn the loss?
Absolutely. The loss of any member of the family pack will affect everyone in the household - including other pets. If you only have one other pet, the survivor may find the loss especially difficult.
Your pets may show their grief in a variety of ways. You may see changes in their eating, sleeping and play patterns. You may also notice unusual negative behaviors, ranging from elimination accidents in the house to chewing or scratching on furniture.
You can help your surviving pets through their grief by giving them extra attention and affection. It will reassure them that you are still there. In return, their love will help you through this difficult time.
What should I do with my pet’s belongings?
This is a very personal decision, but it’s best to wait a bit before deciding whether and how to dispose of you pet’s things. It may be hard to see the empty bed and usual bowls, but you may regret it later if you act in haste to get rid of those sad reminders. Give yourself time to grieve.
When you are ready to deal with your pet’s things, begin by choosing a keepsake - perhaps a collar or a favorite toy - that you can display alongside a photo of your beloved pet as a reminder of happy times together.
Then, consider your plans for the future. Will you need any of these items if you bring another pet into your home? If not, is there a friend with a pet who could use them?
Another alternative is to donate unused food and treats and items in good enough condition to a local humane society or animal shelter. Those things will be welcomed by any organization that cares for homeless pets.
How long should I wait to get a new pet?
There is no “right” answer to this question. The decision of whether and when to get another pet is a very personal one. The choice will depend upon you, your family and your lifestyle.
It is, however, important to mourn your loss first. Don’t rush out to get another pet in order to avoid dealing with your grief. Give yourself time for mourning or you may find it difficult to fully connect with a new pet.
Having once shared the love and affection of a dog or cat, you will eventually be ready for another pet in your home. Only you will know what the time is right.
When you are ready, remind yourself that each pet is an individual. Don’t try to “replace” your lost pet; instead, choose your new pet for his unique personality or the joy he will bring to your life.
How can I find out if I’m ready to make a commitment to another pet?
One of the best ways is to spend time with pets. You might want to volunteer at your local animal shelter, or offer to serve as a foster home for a rescue group. How you feel interacting with these pets will help you decide whether or not you are ready to add a new member to your family.
Any, who know? Perhaps you will meet the perfect new companion animals through your volunteer work.