The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.
–Hilary Stanton Zunin
My family just adopted our first, super sweet, 9-month-old rescue kitten. As an animal lover, I grew up with all kinds of pets: fish, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, a rabbit, a bird, a turtle and multiple dogs. Having a cat is not only new to me, but new to my family as well. We’re all looking forward to getting to know this little guy and learning all of his quirky personality traits. Welcome to the family, Sylvester!
Let’s start with the many mental health benefits of having a pet, they can:
- Lower your anxiety and stress level
- Give your life more meaning and purpose, as they depend on you for their wellbeing
- Help you stay more present and grounded in the moment
- Give and receive unconditional love (this goes both ways!)
- Allow you to see more fun and excitement in the world through your pet’s eyes
- Sense when you are sad, unhappy, grieving, etc. and give you extra love and support
- Help you feel less alone and less lonely in the world
- Help your kids become more mature and responsible by helping with their care
- Bring more play into your life
- Be part of your exercise routine (depending on what type of pet you have in your home)
What else would you add to this list?
Having pets also means eventually experiencing pet loss. Our family has been here many times over. The loss you’re experiencing may be because of they passed away, but may also be because a pet needed to be rehomed for a myriad of different and often difficult reasons. Some of the common grief symptoms after losing a pet may include:
- Crying and sadness
- Emptiness/the house feeling too quiet
- Fogginess/Brain fog
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Eating changes
- Low energy
What else would you add here?
If you’re anything like our family, we don’t last long without a pet at home, as the house just feels too empty and way too quiet for us.
Here are some self-care ideas to consider after the loss of a pet:
- Rest your body
- Allow yourself time and space to grieve in your own way
- Lean in and feel all your feelings
- Talk to a therapist who specializes in grief, and who realizes that pet loss is just as devasting as people loss (and in some cases even more so)
- Spend time with loved ones, especially those who truly understand your grief because they’ve been there too
- Find a creative outlet to express your grief, be it through writing, art, photography, or something else entirely
- Be gentle with yourself and show yourself self-compassion
- Fill your body with warm and nurturing foods and drinks such as tea, hot chocolate, soup, etc.
- Snuggle under a blanket
- Consider getting another pet, when you’re feeling emotionally ready
What else would you add here that’s been helpful to you after the loss of a beloved animal?
With pet love also comes pet loss. It’s another one of those bittersweet parts of life. If you’re grieving the loss of a pet right now, know that you’re not alone, and that many of us truly understand the depth of these feelings. I’m sending lots of love and support your way as you navigate the current chapter in your life.