Pets are an important part of our lives. They offer us comfort and solace during stressful times and enhance our joy in the sweet moments.
If you and/or your loved one are animal lovers, it is crucial to include pets in conversations and considerations surrounding the passing of a loved one.
Regardless of whether you cohabitate or not, you will want to keep your monsters in mind as things change.
I’ve always had at least one pet. Since 2013 I’ve had four. That’s how many I had when Gma and I moved into our new house just before everything shut down due to Covid. My cats and I lived with Gma briefly over a decade ago so they were faintly familiar with her. My dogs, on the other hand, were not used to living (and thus, sharing) with another human. Having everyone under the same roof made life easier in many ways, but it was an adjustment, to say the least.
Since that time both of my boys—Max, an 8 year old beauty, and Indiana, a 15-year old stud muffin—have passed away. Through these experiences and our most recent loss, I’ve learned a lot about supporting your furry friends through the death of a loved one.
Here are some (hopefully) helpful do’s and don’ts from ya girl on losing a loved one and taking care of your pets:
- Don’t overindulge. During times of stress and grief, we often treat ourselves and our “fur babies” to extra treats and things that aren’t good for us. It’s best to stick with your regular level of indulgence, otherwise you may end up with yet another thing you have to take care of while you’re handling final arrangements and working through grief. You don’t need another problem on your hands. I had to learn the hard way—just a few days after Grandma left our earthly plans, Henny is now staying at the vet recovering from pancreatitis. Thankfully, I will have plenty of time to take care of her now that I have this gaping hole in my life.
- Do consider their past relationship with your loved one, but be careful not to project your feelings onto them. If your pets could have cared less about your loved one (🙋🏻♀️🤷🏻♀️), they probably won’t be too upset by their passing. On the other hand, if your pet was crazy for your loved one, they may need a little tender loving care before, during, and after your loved one passes.
- Do keep up your routine. Even if your pets aren’t close with your loved one, they are definitely aware through your biology and your behavior that things are changing. They are very good at picking up on deviations in the atmosphere and activity in your home. The more you can keep things on an even keel, the easier the adjustment will be when your loved one goes.
- Do “Take your cues from them.” When I wasn’t sure if I should keep my animals away from my grandma as she started transitioning, our hospice nurse gave me this advice. I stopped letting it stress me and decided to leave them be. It’s a big house. If they didn’t want to be with us, they had free reign over the rest of it. For the most part, my dog stayed with me. My cat wandered around crying and did come in to check on Gma from time to time. When her crying or poking around became distressing to Gma (or me, seriously, stop the madness, cat!!!), I removed her from the room.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help with your pets. You’ll especially need outside assistance if you keep separate abodes (Pst—Send me an email if this is you and I’ll send you my spreadsheet template to make sure your meals and let-outs are covered). Trust and believe I had a couple of friends on deck to keep an eye on her if needed while I was busy keeping watch over my grandma. Fortunately, she was peaceful (or maybe kinda too sick to care), so she just stayed quietly by my side or snoozed on the couch in Gma’s room. Normally, I hate to be a bother, but as I work through my own grief and affairs, I admit that I can’t do everything. So, I am not hesitating to call on my buddies that love my pets and my pets love back if I need help.
With a little advanced planning and a cool head, all God’s creatures in your household(s) can get through your loved one’s passing a little smoother. What advice or strategies for coping would you add? I’d love to hear from you. Drop your experience in the comments below 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼