Yes. It really is that simple. I am an animal lover and I have been around many grieving animals. I know you have seen the pictures of dogs laying by their masters grave. Just the other day while playing golf, I witnessed a baby bird that was laying in the grass and not doing well. The mama and a bunch of other birds were all trying to protect the baby bird that was near death. The most remarkable story was when I was on the beach one day. A dolphin had passed away. Hours later the pod stayed close to shore until their friend was picked up by an animal rescue team.
This isn’t rocket science. Our animals are amazing creatures. If you have experienced pet loss in your own home, or perhaps even a human death your animals will feel it. They can become very quiet, lethargic, have a loss of appetite, or they may become anxious, having anxiety separation especially if they were not able to see the deceased. Another way to look at this is how a young child grieves; when distracted they can have fun, hang out with friends and be reassured pretty easily by hugs and comfort food. Animals live in the present moment and are kind of the same. They are not going to go through the 5 stages of grief, however they do form a bond and that bond is what they are grieving.
Here are some tips that may help your grieving pet and perhaps you too!
- Plan activities, maybe going to the dog park even if this is new for you and your pet.(finding a new normal is a big part of the grieving process).
- Keep smells around from the departed, be it cloths, dog beds, leashes, collar. Those smells help.
- When you leave your pet, sit with them for a minute and let them know you are coming back.
- Animals speak with images. For example, if I am going to the grocery store; I say just that, sending the dog a picture of me with groceries and then also sending a picture of me coming home with the groceries and saying “I’m home!”
- Give them what they need and keep their routine the same
Be as patient as you can, your pet lost a friend and so did you. Pets also pick up on our sadness. Reassurance is good, use a picture for that too! Let them know you are okay.
I took care of a Boxer who had a new friend, that friend got out and was hit by a car very soon after he was adopted. It was tragic. The remaining Boxer who had been with the family for quite some time was devastated. It really was palpable to me when I was with her. I gave her Reiki with lots of pictures that all will be well along with lots of reassurance and love. She is fine now and has another new friend.
Getting another dog is not always the answer and can be a big responsibility. Try those little tips and just remember it takes time and lots of love.
Nina is a professional educator in the End-of-Life Field. She is Certified by The American Academy of Bereavement for Spiritual Facilitation for the Terminally Ill, Nina also holds a BA in Human Services, is a graduate of Mueller College of Holistic Studies, Author of Dearly Departed What I Learned About Living from the Dying. For well over 20 years Nina has worked in the hospice field visiting the dying and providing support to families. In addition to working with hospice patients and their families Nina has also assisted families through tragic deaths. Nina works passionately helping people to understand that as much as we would like to have all the answers to the big questions, accepting that we don’t can be a big hurdle at times.