Pet Loss and Pet Related Grief
- when your pet has not come home...
People going through the unresolved loss of a much loved pet,
often tell us that that it is
much harder to cope with the "not knowing" than it would be with
knowing that their pet had died, or even if their pet was living
happily somewhere else with another family... It's the "not
knowing" that hurts so much. They don't know if, or when to grieve.
Or when (or how) to stop looking. Or how to even contemplate,
let alone begin to accept, that a much loved family member may
not be coming home again.
While some people give up far too soon, at the other end of the
scale some people torture themselves
for years and years looking for their lost pet at all costs.
This can cost them hugely in time, stress, money and even
relationships can suffer if the partner does not share the
"crusade" to find a lost pet after a long period of time.
The hard part is knowing when to have hope, and when to stop looking
- so you can get some
closure and move forward with your life.
People with unresolved pet loss may experience distressing
nightmares, poor sleeping, crying, feeling disconnected or "stopped"
or just feel
unable to get on with their life until something "happens". You may
over eat or under eat. You may not fell like working, feel
depressed, tearful or easily upset. The unresolved loss of a pet can
cause severe stress, depression and anxiety. People can then
lose time off work and become less productive in their life. A counsellor could help you deal with
these perfectly normal feelings before there becomes a need for further intervention
such as medication. Please do get support if you are feeling that
you are not coping.
It is also common to start to imagine crazy theories. You may
think your pet was stolen or you may view each
passing dog, or person, with suspicion that they have possession of,
or have hurt your missing pet.
However grabbing onto one "theory" can be dangerous as
you may stop
checking out "all" the options. For example if you become
convinced your pet was stolen whereas in
reality, it had simply strayed, you may not check the obvious places
for a lost stray such as the SPCA or pound - and miss finding your
pet...A lot of people think their
pets were stolen, yet in reality this is very rare in our experience,
especially with cats.
Our lost pet advice and strategies will
help ensure you do EVERYTHING you can, especially in the first
days and weeks. Don't wait and see or sit on the couch
crying doing nothing. Instead focus your energies on positive
steps you can take to find your pet. By working through each
step in the checklist, you will know you have done all that you
can possibly do. You might well find your petand you will save
yourself painful recrimination further down the track.
Effect on children
The unresolved loss of a pet can deeply affect both adults and
children in a family.Often children have even stronger bonds
with pets who perhaps normaly sleep or play with them. Then
suddenly that daily routine and that special friend is gone
without explanation. Children can suffer from diffulculty with
sleeping, sadness, or anger that their pet is missing. Although
we as parents and adults barley understand it ourselves, we need
to help our children cope with and process this by allowing and
encouraging them to talk about their feelings. As when a pet
dies, we cannot "promise" to make it better or guranttw to find
the pet. All we can do is sat we will try our vest and do
everything we can. Invite them to help, ask them what their
ideas are. Maybe they can help to deliver fliers with you, or to
make a special poster to put up at school/preschool or outside
your gate. This invovement will help them feel that they too are
doing everything they can do - just as we adults need to feel we
are doing everything in our power as well.
We recommend that people with lost pets keep their listings
running with us on Petsonthenet for at least six months and that
they also check the Found Pets regularly,
preferably daily, especially in the early weeks. To allow your
listing to expire after only a week or two, is just way too
soon. It is common for pets to take take weeks or months to be
listed as found, so it is absolutely vital your listing be there
for the "finder" to see and that you be checking those Found Pet
When much time has passed...an end point...
For those who have searched for a long time and when you start
to feel the time is right, it can help to think of a "closure date"
when you will give yourself permission to "close off" your
search. That date could be months away from now but it gives you
(and your family) an "end
As you approach your pre decided "closure date", think about how
you may want to use the time that will now be freed once you are
no longer doing flier drops, door knocks, internet searches and
even the time you spend worrying. What will you replace that
time with, that is good for YOU, that is positive and moves you
Some people choose to volunteer to work with pets as a tribute
to their own pet. Our volunteer who enters the SPCA ads,
volunteers in memory of her own lost cat as it helps her heal
and "give back" in his memory and to help others in her
When your pre determined end date comes you could have a special remembrance
ceremony, write a letter to your pet, visit their favourite
place, plant a tree, post an online
Tribute for them or any
special thing that feels right to you to commemorate and
acknowledge their life and your love for them.
Then give yourself time to grieve their loss. Always surround
yourself with positive supporting people and take care of yourself.
This beautiful poem "Gone But Not
Forgotten" may also help.
Considering a new pet
For many of us the thought of living without
the purr of a cat or companionship of a dog is unthinkable, so a
time will come when you are ready to welcome a new member into
your family. We recommend that you leave this for at least 3 - 6
months if your pet is still lost to give your pet a chance to be
found. If your pet comes home only to find an "interloper" in
their place, that could go down badly with one or both pets,
resulting in two unhappy animals who may then wander. You could
also find yourself with double the number of pets that you can
It is not good to "replace" a pet quickly, allow yourself and
your family time to accept and to grieve before you move on.
Children may be agitating for a new pet very quickly but they
need to understand a pet is not a commodity that can simply be
replaced...For the same reason getting the same breed and colour
of pet is not a good idea as it is easy for children to see it
as the "same" pet, just living on and on through "new versions",
which does not help them learn to understand and cope with
important losses in their life.
Help with coping with
Counselling to help with pet related
loss and grief, including unresolved loss
But Not Forgotten" tributes on our website range from only
$9.95 to $19.95 are able to be renewed. Funds raised
from sales of Tributes help support this service so that we can
continue to reunite and rehome pets throughout NZ and help