If you are suffering with the loss of a pet, here are some tools to find relief.
Find a support group
The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement offers a list of pet bereavement support groups in several states. Most humane societies also offer group sessions. Psychotherapist Marcia Breitenbach recommends this approach because it allows pet owners to see that they are not alone. If your community does not have a pet grief group, she suggests attending bereavement group sessions, which typically are offered at churches or hospitals.
Give yourself permission to grieve
Even if others do not understand the loss, Breitenbach and Simpson say that it's important to take time to grieve.
"One of the things that astounds me is when people say, 'It's just a cat, you can get another one.' But they would never say at a funeral, to a widow, 'there's more fish in the sea,'" says Breitenbach. "It's hilarious to think about that, and yet we do say that to someone who lost a family member -- they just happened to be furry or feathered or slithery or whatever."
Ask loved ones for space to heal
Feelings of guilt and isolation can fester if loved ones are not supportive. Breitenbach notes that many mates are simply uncomfortable with their partner's grief.
"They want it to go away and they want it like it used to be," she says.
Be honest with your employer
If the grieving process extends to the workplace, Breitenbach suggests open communication with supervisors. It helps to be specific about what you need. It might be as simple as saying that you may need a bathroom break to have a good cry, or it may be that you will have a funeral tomorrow and would like time off.
Use the loss as a teaching opportunity for kids
Most children under the age of 5 do not have a real concept of death, so the loss can be a teaching opportunity. Simpson recommends that children be part of the grieving process, as long as it is age-appropriate. That may mean allowing children to participate in the burial or help select a memorial.
"So many of us want to shelter our children from suffering," she says. "They know what's going on. When you let them say goodbye to the remains, you normalize grief in general."
Step out -- even if it hurts
Breitenbach suggests enrolling in activities that you could not pursue when you had a pet. Try a new cooking class or continuing education course that takes you out of the house at least once a week.
In time, consider another pet
Simpson says that you will know when it's time to adopt another pet. To avoid feeling disloyal to your deceased pet, she suggests approaching the process slowly. Visit an animal shelter or a foster organization, but don't commit.