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As pet parents, we wish our animal family members could stay with us forever. Unfortunately, these precious souls only share our lives for a finite amount of time. If we’re lucky, we get to enjoy many years of companionship. Still, the inevitability of death and having to say goodbye can be overwhelming. If your pet is nearing the end of his or her life, here are a few things you can do to prepare - emotionally, spiritually, and practically - for that sad day.
Acknowledge anticipatory grief.
It’s common to experience feelings of sadness, heartache and anger even before a beloved pet has passed on. Further, these emotions can be exacerbated by the stress of having to care for an elderly or terminally ill pet. This is known as anticipatory grief, and it’s nothing to feel guilty over. Just as you should allow yourself to grieve the loss of a pet after his or her passing, it’s ok and even healthy to allow and embrace these feelings in advance of your expected loss.
Live in the moment.
It’s easy to become so consumed with thoughts and plans regarding the impending death of a loved one that you lose sight of the opportunity to enjoy the time you still have with them. This is especially the case with a pet who requires a lot of extra care, as with medications or incontinence. Consciously take some time, aside from those day to day care activities, just to enjoy some quality moments with your pet. Look them in the eyes, pet them and just be present in the moment. You’ll be glad you did.
Wrap up any unfinished business.
Are there activities you’ve always wanted to do with your animal companion but never seemed to have the time? Now’s your chance to do so, so that you don’t have to live with regret. Jot down a “bucket list” of all the things you want to do and places you want to go with your pet and then start working your way through the list one by one. Spending this quality time together and making lasting memories can really help with the healing process once your pet has crossed over.
Start making arrangements in advance.
Making final arrangements can be difficult enough without having to do so while you’re in the midst of grief. Ask yourself those difficult questions now – like what you’ll do with your pet’s remains and how you’ll memorialize him or her. For instance, you may want to purchase a commemorative urn or arrange to preserve some of your pet’s ashes to be turned into a piece of memorial jewelry. Planning ahead can help ease some of this burden and allow you to focus on the grieving and healing process.
Establish a support system.
When that sad moment finally arrives, you’ll want to know who you can turn to for support. Speak with close friends or family members in advance and let them know what you’re going through. Lean on those who care, whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, asking someone to accompany you to the vet or getting someone to help take your mind off things. Seek out others who also loved your pet so you can share memories and work through the grief process together.
Losing a loved one is heartbreaking, whether two-legged or four. Being as prepared as you can be for when that sad day inevitably arrives can make it a little easier to cope and navigate to a place of peace and healing.