"I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness."
When asked about what happens to a pet after it dies, Billy Graham--the famous evangelist and one of the most respected people of the past half-a-century--had this to say: "I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness. If it takes my dog being there [in Heaven], I believe he will be there." Still, even with this hope, the loss of a pet can be a traumatic time for the pet owner.
Owning a cat or dog is an extremely rewarding experience. Often a pet owner will adopt a young puppy or kitten which allows them to watch the pet mature, grow, and learn and creates a life-long bond between the owner and the pet. We wish that our pets could live as long as we do but the harsh reality is that they do not. The average life span for a dog is 9-14 years and the average for a cat is 12-15 years, so most pet owners will eventually be faced with the death of their pet. If you are dealing with the death of a pet, below are a few ideas to help you get through this difficult time.
In difficult times, many people will withdraw from family and friends and attempt to face the situation alone. You may feel like you are silly for being distraught over a pet, or that no one will relate to your sorrow. The reality is that for many people, their pets have become almost like a member of their family and when a pet dies it feels like they have lost a family member. Seek out friends or family members who have pets, or who have recently lost a pet. Chances are there is someone in your circle who can relate to what you are going through. Sometimes it even helps to listen to a friend talk about his or her own experience with pet loss. Sharing in someone else's experience can help you to understand that you are not silly and you are not alone.
If you do not have a friend or family member with whom you feel you can relate, seek out other forms of support. Several veterinary schools have pet-loss help lines which are monitored by veterinary students who share your love for animals and who are there to advise you on how to move on, or to just listen if that is what you want. Another source of external support is the internet. There are many online message boards and support groups devoted to pet loss. You can remain anonymous if you choose, and although the other group members are strangers, you will share the common bond of having lost a beloved pet.
ALLOW YOURSELF TIME TO GRIEVE
Do not expect to move past the loss of your pet immediately. You spent years forming the tight bond that you had with your pet, and it will surely take some time for you to move past the sorrow you are feeling. Reflect on your pet's life. Look back at the care you provided to your pet. Did you rescue your pet from a situation of neglect or abandonment? Did you provide your pet with love? Did you do what you could to keep your pet healthy for as long as possible? If so, then you can look back on your pet's life knowing that you made a real difference.
Once you have had adequate time to grieve, it's time to start looking forward. One of the best ways to help you move on after a pet's death is to adopt a new pet. Of course you can never replace the pet you have lost, but it can have a healing affect to pass the love you feel for your deceased pet onto a new one in need of some love. Visit the local animal shelters or websites devoted to adopting animals and start to think about maybe adding a new member to your household.
Losing a pet is a very difficult experience for most pet owners. It is not silly to be heartbroken after a pet's death, and it's important to know that you are not alone. When faced with a pet's death, it is important to seek support from friends, family members, or online groups. Give yourself permission to grieve and allow time for yourself with the understanding that you will not move past this overnight. Finally, move forward by thinking about the possibility of adopting a new pet to start a new chapter in your life as a pet owner.