Pets and Grief – How Can I Help My Pet Who Is Grieving?
Animals are amazing beings in that they think, feel and love in their own ways. For example, cats may show contentment and love by squinting their eyes and doing slow blinks towards you. A dog might show his love by a smiling face or a wagging tail as well as many other signals.
Being a very ‘feelings’ oriented person, I can always tell when an animal is showing affection because of the language of their eyes. You can always sense their love just by how they look at you. Time and time again, our furry companions show us love every day through various methods of communication. The key is being fully present so we can see it.
When there are more than one pet in a household, they get used to being with each other. Perhaps they go for a walk together each day. When they are home alone, they often sleep near each other or at least know where the other is at a moment’s notice.
Animals get used to each other as part of a pack family. When the time comes for one of them to pass away, it can affect the animal family as well as the human family.
Symptoms of a Depressed Pet:
- loss of appetite
- sleep changes
- wanting/needing more attention
- communication changes
- social changes
Many have asked me how they can help their pet with the grieving process. Not only is it hard enough for the human, but how can they heal AND help their furry family member(s) as well?
You will find several articles on this over the internet and some with great information. A lot of times I will refer to some practical methods that can be done to help a grieving furry friend however I also always tend to rely on the bond and connection one has with their pet. That love and bond is where the answers to HOW to help them in healing are revealed.
I’ve divided this article into two sections to help you find the best way to help your pet in grieving and welcome you to review them to find what speaks to you the most. I’ve titled them as ‘Practical’ and ‘Relational’. As you take these tools and put them into motion, assess and gauge how your pet responds.
Practical Ways You Can Help Your Furry Loved One In Grieving The Loss Of A Housemate:
1. Try to maintain a good routine with your pet as best you can. When there is a death, there is change and when a normal routine is kept consistent, this can be helpful.
2. Provide opportunities to raise serotonin levels. When we are depressed, our serotonin levels drop. Adding in activities that can raise serotonin can be very helpful. Perhaps adding more playtime or walks outside and going places where your dog likes to be and go.
3. As mentioned in #1 above, keeping to routine is a good route to take however sometimes a change of routine may help as well. For example, if your dog is acting very depressed and sad around the same place(s) that he and his mate used to go, see how he reacts to a new place that is positive and fun. It’s important to monitor this and see his response.
Dogs do best with routine however when grieving, there are some that respond positively to a change that is introduced in a manner that is comfortable, positive and includes all the things they like to do (play, time for bonding, treats etc).
4. Consistency is key along with a stable environment containing love, comfort and care.
Relational Ways You Can Help Your Furry Loved One In Grieving The Loss Of A Housemate:
1. You know your pet more than anyone else. You have spent the most time together and therefore will know what makes them happy, what are their signs of discomfort and things that you can pick up on that others cannot. It’s important to tap into this gift of knowing your pet so you can identify some things so that you can help them.
Perhaps you find that your dog is sleeping more and not eating as much and normally responds to love and cuddles really nicely. You may wish to provide more love and cuddles around the times of eating and sleep so that your pet feels comforted and loved.
2. You are grieving and your pet is too. Take this time to be there for each other. Take him in your arms, tell him that you are sad too and that you can heal together. Animals are very intuitive beings and even though they don’t speak human, they understand it through some words but mostly through their senses.
Be yourself and you don’t need to feel that you cannot be sad around your grieving pet. This time of connection can further enhance your bonding together. When you come closer together, you can heal together.
3. If you have more than one other housemate, and if your pet that has passed away was alpha, there will be a new alpha that needs to be discovered in the hierarchy of life. You may find that your animals are finding their way to a new alpha. During this time, ensure that you allow for this as well as ensuring that all housemates are safe and surrounded with the right support.
In times of severe grief, a visit to your pet’s veterinarian may be helpful in determining the best course of treatment to help your furry loved on in the best way. Patience is needed during this time and it’s a process that must take place. Let it happen so that it can be established.
Losing a pet is never easy. It’s can be just as hard on animals as it is on humans although a lot of animals have an instinctual nature about them in that they understand. Typically, we as humans collect more of an emotional connection to our furry loved ones and therefore may find that our pets bounce back a little quicker than we might.
Love is unique and therefore our grief and our pet’s grief will be unique too. Let’s take this time to honour the deceased pet as well as ourselves and furry family members to make this healing the most supportive experience it can be.
Are you experiencing your pet in grieving another pet’s death? CLICK HERE to learn how you can help them.