My dad was never much of an animal person, so it is a serendipitous match-up that I am his daughter. A stray-cat magnet, I remember constantly coming home with skinned knees, hugging a feral captor tightly in my arms. He was able to ignore my childish charm and say no to every single one…except Tiki. A pure white tabby, with one blue eye and one green eye, Tiki had something special about her. She was a cat’s cat. Sophisticated and aloof, she embodied feline flair. And as much as my dad tried to be coy himself, he was no match for Tiki. Before you knew it, he loved her.
After 15 years of making memories, Tiki passed away peacefully. My dad, on the other hand, was inconsolable. Another cat now occupies Tiki’s corner of the bed, but it is taking my dad awhile to love him in the same way.
Losing a pet is devastating. If you’ve never loved a furry friend, you couldn’t possibly understand. But for those of us with paw prints on our hearts, we spend years, sometimes decades, caring for a four-legged family member. It is impossible to feel that they’re not integral part of who we are. When they are no longer with us, life can feel incomplete.
Everyone mourns differently. There is no right or wrong amount of time to process the passing of your pet. But if you are having difficulty expressing your feelings, there is help:
Join a Pet Loss Support Group. There are online forums, as well as support meetings, through local shelters and animal rescues. For some, it is helpful to be with a group of people that can relate to what they are going through. Listening to how others are mourning the loss of their loved one might offer some insight into your own grieving process. There is comfort in knowing you are not alone.
Write a Memorial In Honor of Your Pet. Even if you are not a writer, putting your feelings down on paper can be very cathartic. You don’t have to be creative or clever, even just a simple list of all the good memories you have of your pet can be beneficial to your mourning. Reminiscing may be helpful in lifting your spirits.
Dedicate a Memorial In Honor of Your Pet. Whether you decide on an engraved headstone for your own garden, or donate money to a local rescue in honor of your pet, some people take solace in creating this lasting legacy as a way to cherish the memory of their loved one.
Volunteer. The truth is, it may be a long time before you are emotionally ready to bring another pet into your home (or your heart). However, some people find comfort in volunteering their time to animal shelters/rescues. It’s harder to be sad when you are met with tail wagging and enthusiasm! Sign up to be a dog walker, cage cleaner or even an administrative volunteer. Knowing that you are a part of making an animal’s life better can be a constructive way to honor your pet.