Grief & Healing

A Pet’s Death is Significant

Thank you for choosing Summerfield Pet Memorial Park and Crematory for the final care of your precious pet. It’s important for you to know that we feel that all pets should be treated with dignity and respect. Many people have asked us what will happen with their pet from the time they come into our care, and we want you to know that we are completely transparent, therefore we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions for your peace of mind.

No, it not “just a dog” or “just a cat.” Your pet is a family member. With the death of that pet, the family experiences a significant loss. A difficult problem, however, is that society often denies you the need to grieve for your pet. You may even be chastised for openly and honestly expressing your feelings. As a result, your grief may be hidden, buried or ignored. Although denied understanding and support, your family needs to grieve the death of your pet. Grieving means to express your feelings, no matter how painful, outside of yourselves.

grief and healing

Helping You Cope

A pet is often a member of the family. In fact, surveys show some interesting facts about pet owners: 84% consider their animals family members; 99% talk to their pets and 54% celebrate their pet’s birthday.The term “man’s best friend” brings to mind the unconditional love, constant companionship and acceptance we feel for our pets. And why not? Your pet can take you for a walk, listen when you need someone to talk to or even guard your house. A pet can also lower your blood pressure, change your heart rate or alleviate feelings of chronic loneliness.

With your capacity to love your pet comes the necessity to grieve when that “best friend” dies. The death of a pet is, without a doubt, a traumatic experience. This article is intended to help you and your family acknowledge the need to grieve at this time and to do so in a healthy way.

Memories are the Best Legacies
Memories are one of the best legacies after the death of a pet. Talk about and embrace these memories. Your pet entertained, comforted, frustrated but always loved you. Remember those times. If your memories bring laughter, smile. If they bring sadness, cry. Remember, though, memories made in love can never be taken away.

Your Emotions will Vary
When your pet dies, you will probably experience a variety of emotions: confusion, disorganization, sadness, explosive emotions or guilt. Don’t repress these feelings and ignore anyone who tells you that you should. Don’t over-analyze your response. Just allow your feelings to find expression. As strange as some of these feelings may seem, they are normal and healthy.

Each family member probably had a unique relationship with the pet. Allow for different emotional responses within the family, and be careful to respect each person’s need to grieve in his or her own way.

Children Need to be Involved
The death of a pet is often the first opportunity parents have to help children during times of grief. Unfortunately, parents often don’t want to talk about the death assuming that by doing so the children will be spared some of the pain and sadness.

Children, however, are entitled to grieve for their pets. Any child old enough to love is old enough to grieve. And many children love their pets with all their hearts. As an adult, if you are open, honest and loving, experiencing the death of a pet can be a chance for children to learn about both the joy- and the pain- that comes from caring deeply for pets or for people.

You may not experience the same depth of loss as your children when a family pet dies. You must still respect their grief and allow them to express it without feeling abandoned. Your response during this time can make the difference whether children’s first exposure to death will be a positive or a negative part of their personal growth and development.

Premature Replacement can cause Problems
The temptation after the death of a pet may be to run out and get another one right away. In fact, you are often encouraged to do so by family and friends. Although it may sound like a good idea, you should be careful about premature replacement. You need time to grieve and to heal when your pet dies. A new pet demands your energy and attention which at some point you may be ready and willing to give. Right now, however, you should first attend to your grief.

Be especially careful about premature replacement of pets with children. It sends a message to a child that says when something is lost all that you have to do is buy another one. In reality, that is often not the case. It also devalues the significance of the pet that just died. While there is no specific timetable for when to get a new pet, when in doubt-wait. Allow for additional healing to occur. When the family is ready for a new pet, involve the children in the discussion and selection so they can feel a part of the decision.

Helping a Friend

Please Do:
Be There — and Mean It. For many pet owners, it’s comforting just to know that there’s someone whom they can call to assist them with administering medications, or someone who can spend an afternoon with them in the vet’s office. So if you’re asked to help, do it.
Take Time to Listen. Sometimes simply talking things through helps pet owners organize their priorities when it comes to decision-making. Go ahead and be that person who listens to the same story over and over again about the nice oncologist or the intricacies of chemotherapy protocol.
Go to Google. While the pet owner is busy taking care of the animal, research pet cancer and pet loss.
– Speak Up When the Time Is Right. Only offer your opinion when asked — and only if you have all the facts. If your friend needs your input, ask questions so that you’re sure you have all the information you’ll need to give appropriate advice. You may even think of something that your friend hasn’t considered, which could unexpectedly help with decision-making.
 Live in the Moment With Your Friend. A pet’s prognosis can change from moment to moment, so celebrate treatment successes, as well as offer a shoulder to cry on when things take a turn for the worst.
Send Flowers or Make a Tribute Gift. A simple reminder of your sympathy can be a great pick-me-up. Tribute gifts are an excellent way to show your support, especially if the money goes toward canine or feline cancer research or to an animal shelter.

Please Don’t:
Pretend That Nothing Is Wrong. If you notice that your friend’s pet is shaved or bandaged, ask if she feels up to talking about the obvious health issue. If tests or biopsies are pending, don’t forget to ask again later.
Bring Up the Age Issue. Let’s face it: We all secretly hope that our pet will be that 20-year-old dog or 25- year-old cat. So mentioning an animal’s age isn’t helpful to someone who’s struggling with a pet’s mortality.
Ask About Money. Cancer therapy can be expensive, and your friend’s veterinarian has already discussed the responsibilities and sacrifices involved in the treatment protocol.
Avoid the Topic of Euthanasia. For pets with cancer, there are often multiple treatment options, including euthanasia. Your friend knows this decision may be in the near future, so support, empathize and sympathize without being judgmental.
Suggest Getting Another Pet. Beloved animals are not easily replaced. Could you handle training a puppy, while caring for a seriously ill pet? However, when they do get a new pet, celebrate the news without comparing that animal to the old one.

Keeping all of these things in mind will help your friend know that you are there for them during this scary time.

Local Pet Support Group

Because we understand the loss of a pet, we have created a Pet Loss Support Group, and we plan to meet the last Thursday of each month at Parkway Funeral and Cremation Service, 2330 Tyler Parkway in Bismarck. Our first visit will be held on September 28, 2017. Please call Brenda Bergan at (701) 223-7322 for more information or to be a part of our support group.