I don’t know about you, but I believe a pet is an important part of the family. Whether dog, cat, fish or any other animal, the pets I’ve had over the years have left positive impacts on my life. The worst part, however? Saying goodbye.

In recent months, I’ve had to deal with the losses of two cats I had from the time I was little.

Although death is a natural part of life, it’s always hard to let go of a beloved pet, whether they die on their own, or are put to sleep. While I’ll always feel some sort of sadness for every pet I’ve lost, I’ve been able to deal with grief in many ways. The list below features suggestions of how to cope, but everyone grieves in different ways; don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t grieve the exact same way as me.

1. Think of good memories of your pet.

One of the things I do is look back on my pet’s life. One of my cats had a huge, funny personality, and would often get himself into hilarious antics. Think of a favorite memory you have of your pet. Is it going for walks with your dog, or the way your cat would get excited about pieces of string?

2. Choose its final resting place.

You can choose to bury your pet or cremate it. If there’s a spot in your yard it liked to lie in, bury it or spread its ashes there. If you cremate it, and choose to keep the ashes in the urn, that’s fine too.

3. Talk to someone about how you feel.

Your family may be grieving just as much, so don’t be afraid to mourn together. If you don’t feel you can talk to them, however, find a supportive friend or other person to discuss your feelings with.

4. Allow yourself to feel how you feel.

We all know about the five stages of grief. We may not all feel these things exactly, however. You can be angry one day, accepting of the death the next, then feel sad another day. How you feel will not be set in stone. Your moods are completely natural, so don’t be hard on yourself for how you feel.

This also accounts for showing emotion. Whether or not you cry is okay. We all mourn in different ways.

5. Let yourself grieve for as long as you want.

You could feel grief for a few weeks, or for months. You can even go through days of missing your pet long after it dies. All of this is completely normal. You are dealing with death, after all, so it’s okay to feel sad.

Some may feel it’s “just an animal”, but for many, death is death, whether human or animal. Your feelings are valid, no matter what they are.

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