Saying Goodbye to Your Pet

Pet owners know that they’re more than just “owners.” A pet isn’t a possession, it’s a companion and a friend. And when that companion and friend passes away, it can be incredibly difficult to deal with.

Unfortunately, pets do pass on. Sometimes, it’s our responsibility as loving owners to make the decision to give our pets relief from their illness or pain. And when our pet is gone, we have to decide how to honor and remember our pet. Here are a few things to consider at this difficult time.

Is it time to say goodbye?

Our pets sometimes leave us without warning. But, at other times, our pets linger on while dealing with terrible illness or pain. At such times, it’s our responsibility as caring owners to release our pets from their pain. A dog or a cat doesn’t have the power to end its own suffering — only we have the power to do that. Our pets rely on us to make that difficult decision at the right time.

Knowing exactly when to say goodbye to your pet can be very, very difficult. Some owners and veterinarians will tell you that “you’ll know” when it’s time, and that certainly is the case sometimes. In some instances, your pet may look dramatically different one day and make it clear to you that now is the time.

But other times, a slow decline can make it very tough to make a decision. If you’re struggling with your choice, speak to your veterinarian and other pet owners who’ve been through this. It’s also helpful to look at online checklists and questionnaires that can help you evaluate your pet’s quality of life. During a slow decline, you may not notice just how much your pet has lost over the years, and seeing it laid out in a questionnaire can help you reach your decision. If your pet is suffering and not enjoying life, it is time to say goodbye.

Memorializing your pet

When a human loved one passes away, we usually get some kind of closure, like a memorial service or a funeral. But when our pets pass, society reacts a little differently. That’s perfectly understandable, but it doesn’t make things easy when we’re dealing with real grief following the passing of our pet.

You can and should take whatever steps you need to properly memorialize your pet and get the closure you need. Pet cremation services are a popular and sensible choice. Pet ashes can be kept in an urn or spread in one or more places that your pet particularly enjoyed. Doing something ceremonial with your pet’s remains is a great way to give their memory the respect it deserves, while also giving you an outlet for your grief and a path towards closure. If the idea of using fire in cremation is at all upsetting to you, never fear. There are alternatives, such as hydrolysis cremation, according to experts at VIP Aquamation.

You should feel free to involve others in memorializing your pet. If you bring along other people who loved your pet to spread your pet’s ashes, it can be a nice way to get some support during a tough time, while also giving those people a chance to do a bit of grieving of their own.

Consider creating a memorial to help remember your pet by, whether that’s a photo album or a grave-like marker. Having something to turn to when you want to remember your pet can be very helpful.

Don’t feel silly if your pet’s passing really brings you down. Grief is natural. You can and should seek out mental health support at this difficult time. Americans are far too reluctant to seek out the mental health care that they need, and we would all be better off if we were a bit more proactive about caring for our mental health — both in times of grieving and in general.

Losing a pet feels awful, but with time and the proper outlets, you’ll be able to look back on your pet’s happy life with a sense of love and satisfaction. No matter how long or short our time with our pets is, we’ll never forget it.