When Empty Nesters Experience the Passing of a Beloved Pet

Losing a furry four-legged friend is tough on anyone, but for those who have already seen their children move out and felt the loneliness and other emotions that come with that, it can be especially difficult. Here we’ll discuss the emotions empty nesters experience with the passing of a beloved pet child, as well as tips on how to cope with the grief.

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Coping with the loss won’t be easy, but it is possible

One of the biggest emotions you will feel following the death of a beloved pet child is loneliness. You will want to get a support group around you, if at all possible. Bring in friends and family to help you through your tough time, or go visit them for a short while, if that is a better fit. It is important that you spend time with other people, however, to help with the feelings of loneliness.

Loneliness makes everything harder to bear, so just getting some comfort from people close to you can be a great help. You may even want to reach out to support organizations or online forums and find people to talk to who have gone through the same problems as you or who may be going through them right now. Our Pet Loss Forum is available to help you find people you can talk to, who may better understand your situation and can be a shoulder to lean on. It can be beneficial to have a lot of people on your side.

Tip: Know that it’s normal to go through or experience some negative emotions like anger or abandonment toward family members and even your deceased pet at first. Many will feel, though it sounds irrational, that they have been left or abandoned by those they love. That’s why it’s important to not isolate yourself and to surround yourself with those you trust. You may not get feelings as strong as these or as prolonged if you can surround yourself with loved ones or those who have been in a similar situation.

Make an effort to move on

People move on in different ways, and there may be a few methods you can use to help you start to feel better about the passing of your pet child.

One of those is to memorialize the pet; Rainbow Bridge can help you create a suitable memorial. This can go beyond a simple grave to enable you to really cherish and immortalize your pet.

It may sound scary at first, but you may also want to consider getting a new pet to have in your home. Even though no pet can ever replace the one you lost, that new one can fill a void in your heart and your home and make you not feel quite so alone. You can get a little peace and a sense of normalcy back in your life, which can definitely help you to move on after your severe loss. Take your time in choosing another pet to ensure it is a good fit for you and to make certain it won’t be a lot of work for you to handle as you deal with the grief you are going through. Adopting a rescue pet or a pet in need is always wonderful, but if you are a dog parent and want to go through a breeder, make sure to read through or have a puppy contract in place in case - after all, it’s not uncommon that those suffering from grief find themselves unable to look after a new animal and need to return the pup.

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How to handle the pet’s personal effects

Your pet will leave behind many special memories that can never fade away and that will always be a part of you. Those can be special and dear to your heart, but your pet will also leave behind some items in your home or yard. The feeding dishes, sleeping mat, litter box and toys may all hold memories for you, and you’ll want to figure out whether you want to store them away, use them for another pet or do something else entirely.

Some people feel better if they just give them away, gifting them to friends or family. It can be helpful to have these little reminders out of the house and to make a fresh start and a clean break from the passing of a beloved pet child. Other people want to memorialize these items, hanging them up on a wall or placing them into a box or a display case.

To determine what might work best for you, you’ll want to take your time and think carefully through your choices. Figure out what would make you feel best and what seems right to you to do with your pet’s belongings. The answer will be different for many people, and there isn’t a certain right way to choose with these items.

If the passing of your pet was particularly painful because it was sudden, or because they were still a puppy, then you may be more inclined to just put the pet’s effects away where they won’t be seen on accident. That way, you can pull them out to look at them and relive your memories only when you want to.

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Handling the passing of very young or very old pets

A pet that wasn’t with you for very long can often have a severe impact on your emotional state. You may have just gotten used to the idea of having the pet in your house when you experienced your loss, and it can feel like someone is yanking a rug out from under you in that sense of sudden and unexpected loss. You might miss the energy and vitality of the puppy you had, and you may want to fill that void by spending time with young children in your family.

For those who are suffering from the loss of an older pet, it can be extremely tough to deal with not having them in your life anymore. You got used to them being a part of everything you do, and you can better cope with your emotions if you spend some time with people who have been a constant part of your routines and your life for a while. You can go to visit your children or neighbors you are used to seeing. That familiarity can help you to cope with the sense that things are not right and don’t feel normal anymore. They can bring back a sense of normalcy and self care to your life and scratch that nostalgia itch you may not realize that you are feeling.

Making your home feel not so lonely

We want to conclude by giving you a few tips that can help you make your home feel occupied and make you feel more at ease.

● Invite people over- Look for opportunities to visit other people and to have them come to your home. Throw small parties, create a potluck event or just have some game nights to fill your house with guests on a regular basis.

● Get excited about what can change- Change can be scary, but you can look at the passing of a pet child as a way to pick a new pet, if you are interested, and you can enjoy researching different kinds of pets and how they might impact your life.

● Create a memorial section in your home- Some people do very well with a small memorial in their home to pleasantly remind them of their loved one after he or she has gone.

● Open up your house- It can also help to open windows and even doors and let in fresh air. Opening curtains brings in sunlight, and letting in the sounds from the neighborhood can make you feel connected to other people around you.

Are you an empty nester suffering from the loss of a pet? Visit our Grief Support Center for more advice on how Rainbows Bridge can help. We have a forum section where you can chat with others, plus coping suggestions for how to handle and overcome your grief.

Thanks to John Woods for this article.

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