Christmas time without your pet
Christmas can be a time where laughter, love and good times are intensified. However, for some people it can be a time where loneliness is exacerbated by the idea that everyone has someone to spend Christmas with. Memories and feelings of sadness and loss of those who are no longer with us can be particularly raw this time of year.
For people that have lost a pet to illness, old – age, or due to circumstances these feelings of sadness may ring true too. With pets you see them everyday, they depend on you for food, water, walks, grooming and company, so when they’re no longer with you a great void will be felt in your life. It is completely normal to feel tearful, sad, and low.
Here is some hopefully helpful advice for if you have experienced or will experience pet loss:
Talking to someone who gets it
The Blue Cross has a pet bereavement support line which provides free non – judgemental emotional support, the phone number is: 0800 096 6606 (UK and NI Only). The Ralph Site, was set up by the Vet Shalien Jusani, the name Ralph, was the name of his black cat, who sadly died in a road traffic accident. It has a lot of helpful advice including emotional support, and practical support for people who have lost a pet or who would like more information about the options of saying goodbye to their pet, including details about euthanasia: https://www.theralphsite.com/
If you have lost a pet a special memory box may be a way of memorialising them, you could have their favourite toy there, a photo of them or even a photo book of all the memories you shared together – lap time, walks and play sessions.
You could name a star after your pet or plant a pretty flower or plant in the garden in memory of them.
If you’re concerned your pet is or will grieve
It’s good idea to let them see the dead body of the pet, if possible before it has gone cold. This may stop them searching and waiting anxiously for the return of their companion.
If there are no other pets in the home and death of your pet is foreseen, it may be useful to introduce another younger animal into the household before the death. The healthy animal will then have an opportunity to build up a new relationship, which may or reduce, the complete dependence on the pet that is dying. When dogs are pining and grieving for a lost companion, getting another dog or even a cat is sometimes helpful. Don’t expect it to be an immediate success however and consider how you’ll be able to provide care for all of the animals during this time as obviously it may be a big commitment especially if your pet is having palliative care.
Supporting someone who has lost their pet
If you don’t have a pet yourself or haven’t experienced pet loss before perhaps it can be hard to empathise or sympathise with a person who has, but please avoid minimising their loss. When a loss is unrecognised and not acknowledged by others in society it is known as a “disenfranchised loss”. The person grieving may be left feeling totally alone in their grief.
For people, many things happen in their life including redundancies, divorce, marriage, and baby’s and their pet is a present for all of these huge life events – pet’s are always there in the context of people’s lives – the good the bad and the ugly. During the bad, they can offer an unwavering sense of support, purpose and routine which is invaluable to many. Please don’t minimise their grief with platitudes like “ it’s just a pet you could always get another one”. The pet is not ‘just anything’ the person will have memories that are cherished, whatever the relationship with the pet was. While some people get a pet quite soon after their last pet, this is an individual decision and some people will feel that they’re tarnishing their pet’s memory by getting a pet soon after their last one has gone. Moreover getting a pet soon after when they haven’t grieved may result in a rush decision where the new pet is constantly compared to the one that they lost – all pets have different temperaments and characteristics. No two will be the same.
Check in with the person when possible, invite them for a walk, a cuppa tea, and just let them knows you’re there for them as a friend.
(Adapted from the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Line training course)