4 Tips for Coping With the Loss of a Pet

When you first adopt your pet, you are overwhelmed with feelings of compassion, companionship and joy. You spend your days caring for your pet and before you know it, he or she is like a child to you—a fully integrated part of your life.

And while the best thing you can do for any animal is to bring it into your home and give it the love and attention it deserves, as a rule, we will all likely outlive them. Many people in recovery relied on their pets’ unconditional love during their toughest times, making it even more crucial that they find ways to cope with the loss of their good friend without slipping back to old drinking or drugging habits.

Here are 4 tips to help you get through your loss and ensure that you come out on the other side of your grief healthy and clean.

1. Take time to grieve.

You don’t have to quickly move past the death of a pet. Take your time. It’s ok to feel blue. Feel your grief and express it to caring friends and family members who are willing to lend an ear, too. Write it down, visit your pet’s grave site – do whatever you need to do to be fair to the grief you rightfully feel.

2. Focus on yourself.

It’s more important now than ever before that you prioritize your health above all other things. Yes, take showers and go to work, but place a heavy focus on exercising, soaking up vitamin D from the sun, eating a plant-heavy diet, drinking plenty of water, meditating, seeing people who uplift you emotionally and mentally, and whatever else makes you feel well-adjusted and healthy. Get yourself into a routine so that your mind and body can reset.

3. Adjust your lifestyle.

Once you get yourself into a healthy routine, focus on adjusting to a life without your pet. If you used to go for a daily walk with your pet, try to continue to incorporate a daily walk. If you don’t like walking alone, find a friend who might be willing to accompany you. If you find yourself sleeping in every morning now that your pet isn’t there to wake you up, set an alarm clock. Try your best to address the gaps that the loss of your pet has created in your life.

4. Memorialize your pet.

Memorialize your pet in whichever way feels best to you. Perhaps you want to create a photo album or fill a shoebox with his or her loving memories, such as an old collar or toy. Maybe you can save up to commission an artist to create a beautiful painting of your pet or donate money to a local animal charity in your pet’s memory. If you can find the time and motivation, write down a few memories you have of your life with your pet—the sweet, the funny, the gross, the annoying—and keep it in a journal. Memorialize your pet in whichever way you feel the most comfortable.

Losing your beloved animal can be as painful as losing a dear friend. It is important that we find healthy ways to contend with difficult feelings such as grief in order to keep us strong and prevent the possibility of relapse.

Elizabeth Seward has written about health and wellness for Discovery Health, National Geographic, How Stuff Works Health, and many other online and print publications. As a former touring rock musician, Elizabeth has firsthand experience with the struggles of substance abuse and the loss of loved ones because of it. She believes in the restorative power of yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and plant-based diets and she is an advocate for progressive drug policy reform.

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