Counseling

VCA Animal Diagnostic Clinic Dallas Pet Loss Support

As pet owners ourselves, the staff at VCA Animal Diagnostic Clinic understands that facing a pet's serious illness or the loss of a pet can be emotionally devastating. We also know that to care for a sick pet, a family must receive clear information concerning treatment and evaluating options and, sometimes, making difficult decisions. Our hospital's veterinarians and staff are here to help you explore your concerns about treatment choices and managing a sick pet at home. We are sensitive to our clients needs and provide private rooms, where pet owners can spend peaceful time with seriously ill pets. You can count on our staff to assist you in every way that we can during times of crisis.

Everyone experiences the grief associated with the death of a loved pet differently. Below are some simple suggestions to aid you and your family in the active part of the grief process, mourning.

Children in Grief

Children are actually very organic in the way they process grief. Here are some ways to give them permission and a healthy environment to do what comes natural to them:

  • When talking to your child about the death of their beloved pet, be honest and truthful. Use appropriate and correct words when explaining the loss, euthanasia, and sadness.
  • Allow the child to see you cry and be sad. While many people think not allowing a child to see this is showing a sign of strength. It is actually showing a sign of weakness in not being able to show emotion. A child will want to see these emotions.
  • Set up a table in your home to display items symbolic of your pet. A “Tribute Table” will provide an active place for your child to place items special to the deceased pet and to the life shared with the family.
  • At a designated period following the death of the pet, assist the child in arranging a memorial service to pay tribute to the pet. Let the child assist you in deciding on the readings, poems, letters, or music to play at the service.
  • Assist the child in creating a journal, scrapbook, or photo album.
  • Allow the child to participate in the final arrangements of the pet’s body.

As a family, organize a donation drive for your local pet shelter in memory of your pet.

Emotions of Euthanasia

The decision to euthanize your pet is one full of emotions with questions such as “was it the right time,” to “did I make the right decision.” You are certainly the one who knows your pet the best and when the time was right to give your ailing pet peace.

For so many people, the most common overriding emotion when euthanasia has been chosen for a pet’s end-of-life arrangements is guilt. While the word “euthanasia” means “good or fortunate death,” when that time comes, a grieving heart does not feel like it has been that at all.

To help with the decision prior to euthanasia, obtaining answers to a variety of your questions should be key, possibly consulting professionals such as:

  • Your veterinarian, who can guide you in areas such as the disease progression of your pet or a Quality of Life scale.
  • A pet hospice group, also to potentially use for pain management care at home.
  • Take this time to create a short, or extended, bucket list of things to do with your pet. Create those final memories to remember forever.
  • Friends who understand and have also had to make the decision.
  • Counselors specializing in End-of-Life Pet Care.
  • For some, reaching out to another spiritual dimension with the use of animal communicators.
  • Establish your own process to determine where your pet is on their Quality of Life. Take daily photos to review, keep a calendar to mark the good days and the bad days, journal about your pet’s day.

If you have chosen euthanasia for your beloved pet and are struggling with the decision made, you are not alone. For so many loving pet parents, the decision to euthanize was made with much thought, or possibly the decision was made with very little thought because of the severity of the situation for the pet’s health. Whatever situation best fits you, questioning yourself later is not uncommon.

  • Look to other friends who have been in your same situation. How did they handle their decision after their pet had died?
  • Review the health diagnosis again with your veterinary professional to confirm your decision.
  • Turn to a pet loss support group, from those that are held in person to the many that are available on-line.
  • Have a service or a ritual to honor your pet, and pay those last respects to them that they deserved.

Friends in Grief

Watching a friend suffer a broken heart is so difficult. As a caring person, we just want to take away the hurt and make it better. However, every person needs to own their own grief, and to have someone who can walk with them in a healthy manner through their journey. To not take it away, but to let the grieving heart feel their grief, their emotions, without being shamed.

As a friend, here’s your role:

  • To just be. You are not there to have the answers or to take the pain away.
  • To listen. To actively listen with your entire heart and body.
  • To wonder with the grieving soul. When they a ask question, it is the grieving soul’s way of finding the answers within their own heart.
  • To create a safe place for the grieving soul to mourn.
  • To know and support the grieving person.
  • To allow the grieving person to take their own grief journey, not anyone else’s.
  • To help them in honoring their beloved pet. Be with them as they create a ritual, do a balloon release, or plant a special flower for their pet friend.
  • Ask questions. Honor the story of the pet who has just died. Let them tell the story as many times as needed.
  • Allow the grieving soul to hurt.
  • To not judge their grief or how they are choosing to explore their grief and hurt.

Memorialization
How to permanently memorialize a loved pet

There is no wrong answer when it comes to the right way to memorialize a beloved pet. How you and/or your family decide to pay tribute to a deceased pet should be what is fitting for you and should be reflective of the life you shared. As many families ponder the perfect memorialization pieces, the maze can be vast and confusing. However, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to guide you in this beautiful tribute to your furry friend.

  1. What type of memorialization piece best summarizes my pet’s personality? Will you want something to honor that?
  2. Think about your home and your decorating style. That should certainly play a part in the look and feel of your decision.
  3. Will you want a memorialization urn that can hold your entire pet family? Some people, desire to be buried, or inurned, with all of their pets. Therefore, a large urn to hold the entire family makes absolute sense.
  4. Are you looking to bury your pet? A special marker or rock to mark the burial spot, or the planting of a flower bed at the site is the perfect way to honor them.
  5. Unique pieces of jewelry or artwork can include the pet’s ashes to create a diamond, the pet’s nose print or paw print to create a charm, or using the pet’s ashes to paint a portrait.

There are no limits to what can be done to honor a pet. The Pet Loss Center, our end-of-life partner can assist and guide with these various ideas and options. Email them here for more information.

Pet Parents and Grief

The loss of a beloved pet is full of so many emotions. Guilt, anger, and deep sadness are just a part of what the heart feels. These emotions ebb and flow with intensity.

As grief is the internal emotion of loss, mourning is the active part of the feeling. Allow yourself the time to cry and don’t shame yourself for doing it. You loved your pet, so the grief associated with the loss will be equal, if not more profound. During this time, be kind to yourself. Do what your heart is telling you to do.

Take the time you’ll need to honor your pet. Do things such as:

  • Create a journal to share your emotions.
  • Create a scrapbook.
  • Share your story on-line through social sites, or sites that will allow you to post a memorial of your pet.
  • Do a ritual or memorial service to honor the life you shared together.
  • Light a candle for your pet, possibly every day to make sure you are  taking the time you need to remember them and to do your mourning work.
  • Reach out to a friend who will listen and honor your pet with you.

There are certain needs a grieving heart will need. Here are the Six Central Needs of Mourning for a Grieving Heart:

  1. Acknowledge the reality of the death.
  2. Move toward the pain of loss.
  3. Continue the relationship with the pet that died through memory.
  4. Adjust your self-identity.
  5. Search for meaning.
  6. Continue to receive support from others.

If you need additional support, reach out to our partners at The Pet Loss Center. They will call you and provide a listening ear to walk with you during your grief journey.

Pets in Grief

Many of us do not  think of our pets’ grieving for another pet. However, their grief is real, and many times very visible. Consider these steps to assist your pet with their grief journey:

  • While it is important to keep their routine the same, give them the extra care and attention they may be craving. It will be good for you, too.
  • If a treat is a car ride, take your pet with you for more time together.
  • Take longer or more walks together so your pet will not have to be alone.
  • Allow the pet to sleep in areas he or she possibly would not have slept in the past- the deceased pet’s chair or bed.
  • Talk to your pet about the deceased pet. Tell them how you are grieving too and give them “permission” to grieve as well.
  • If the deceased pet was the alpha, the leader of the house, know the remaining pets will now have to re-establish the order in the home.

Support Resources

Our partners at The Pet Loss Center have a variety of support resources for you during this time:

  • A Pet Loss Support Journal for weekly mourning activities. Join The Pet Loss Center every Thursday for a FaceBook Live series at The Pet Loss Center - Pet Cremation & Memorialization, Walking Together. This series is designed for grieving pet parents to come together to discuss the weekly assignments.        
  • Join The Pet Loss Center for an on-line pet loss support group at thepetlosscenter.com/forum. This forum is designed for the community of grieving pet lovers to openly share and find support of others who are walking the same journey.
  • The Pet Loss Center book, Pet Parents: A Journey Through Unconditional Love & Grief   

For those pet parents who just feel lost and not sure what resources might be best, contact The Pet Loss Center for guidance.

Contact Us

972-267-8300

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