Coping With the Loss of Your Furry Companion

By Lizzie Vasquez

Dealing with the loss of a pet is not easy. They are not just animals; they are also friends and an integral part of many families. Grief is inevitable, and it looks different for each person. When trying to deal with your grief, it is important to recall the good memories with your pet rather than dwelling on your loss. Celebration of your pet’s life and the time you had together is a crucial step in coping with their death.

The Humane Society of the United States said it is important to acknowledge your grief and allow yourself time to express it. They recommend reaching out to others for support and an ear to listen, or writing about your feelings in a journal.

If you do decide to reach out for help coping with your loss, there are various types of support available to you. There are local and national pet-loss support hotlines, such as the University of Florida hotline at (352) 392-4700 and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) hotline at (877) GRIEF-10. In Alachua County, there are many counseling services for those in the mourning process, including counselors at the Gainesville Veterinary Hospital. Books like “Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates” by Gary Kurz, and “Healing the Pain of Pet Loss” by Kymberly Smith, can also be very helpful.

Preparing a memorial for your pet may be another way to get through the grieving process. You may set up a photo tribute, commission a pet portrait or a clay paw print, or purchase a special urn for your pet’s ashes. Pet headstones are also a great way to memorialize the life of your friend if you choose to bury your pet.

Krista Peterson, 53, recently experienced the end of a 10-year-long friendship with Murphy. The Peterson’s rescued the bichon when he was 3 years old, and he immediately became more than just a pet.

At the end of 2017, Murphy became very sick. He refused to eat and was unable to breath steadily. “When we finally decided to put him to sleep, we were both very upset,” Peterson said of her and her husband. “We waited 48 hours after deciding to do it, to make sure we would be able to cope.”

The morning after Murphy passed by euthanasia felt empty, she said. The couple was accustomed to waking up to their loyal friend, being greeted by him when they returned from work and finding him snuggled up on the couch in his special spot.

“The first week was very hard for us. He was such a constant presence in our life,” said Peterson. “But it gets a little easier every day.”

She recommends giving yourself time to mourn. “[Pets] are so important to our lives that we need to allow ourselves to grieve.”

When the mourning process is over, it is natural to yearn for another companion. However, rushing into a decision to get a new pet is not fair to you or them. Remember that new a pet cannot replace the one you lost. Give yourself time to consider if you are ready and whether this is the appropriate next step.

Local Pet Funeral Homes

Crevasse’s Pet Funeral Home in Gainesville offers cremation services and coping support for grieving pet owners. Alachua’s Lap of Love provides hospice, euthanasia, cremation and pet burial. Garden of Love Pet Memorial Park in Micanopy offers burial services in their Formal Gardens and cremation with the option of scattering the ashes in their St. Francis Garden. You also have the option of placing a memorial plaque on a brick remembrance wall. It may be possible to bury your pet on your own property. First, be sure to check your county ordinances for restrictions and call your local utilities office to check for gas lines or water lines underground.