How Long After the Loss of a Pet Should You Wait Before Adopting Again?
The grief you feel after the loss of a pet is profound, painful, and can impact all areas of your life. Even if your pet was older or facing health challenges, having to say goodbye is never easy. Jeff Brockman, a Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHCA) who specializes in pet loss and is the owner of The Art of Empathy, explains that there are several reasons people feel intense grief when a pet passes away, including:
- Pets provide us with a totally conflict-free relationship, and we're mourning that simple, loving connection.
- The loss may trigger unresolved grief about the loss of someone else in your life, like a parent or a child.
- Pets become a part of our routine. You're used to walking them or having them sleep in your bed. When they pass away, this routine is thrown off.
- Pets depend on you fully for care and attention. This is an important bond, particularly for those who live alone or whose children are grown up and out of the house.
Society's ideas about the "proper" way to mourn a pet can make coping with their death a challenge, Brockman explains.
"There are a lot of cultural beliefs about death and grief, and I think they're pretty rigid as far as pets go. Someone could understand if your mother passed away and you kept her ring, but if your dog dies and you kept his leash, there's less of an understanding. People want you to 'just get over it,'" Brockman says.
This assumption that pet owners should simply move on from a loss and not take time to process the death can make healing even more difficult.
If you find yourself dealing with grief after your pet passes, Brockman recommends finding healthy coping strategies. For some people, this includes journaling or meditating. Others may get value out of finding a pet loss support group where you can share your feelings in a safe space with like-minded people.
For some pet parents, adopting another pet is a way to start the healing process. Here are tips on analyzing if you're ready to add to your family after the loss of a beloved pet.
Know That There's No Set Timeline
Some people feel hesitant to add a new pet in their lives, worrying that it may seem disrespectful to the companion they've just lost, Brockman says. They may also believe they need to be fully healed from their pet's death before they welcome another animal into the home. In reality, this isn't necessarily the case.
"There are lots of people that love pets and are almost punishing themselves by not adopting again when there are so many animals that need homes," Brockman explains.
When you miss the sound of furry footsteps in your home, but aren't sure if you're ready to adopt again, you might consider fostering a dog in need. This allows you to connect with and care for another animal, without making a lifetime commitment. Brockman adds that some shelters also allow prospective pet parents to take a shelter pup home for a weekend. These programs give the dog a respite from shelter life while allowing you to see if you feel ready to permanently welcome another dog into your home.
Don't Be Afraid To Seek Counseling
If you're having trouble sleeping, find yourself unfocused at work, have lost your appetite, or are experiencing any other significant issues that relate to pet loss, Brockman says there's no shame in seeking professional support. Everyone grieves after a pet dies, but when this grief starts to impact your daily life, a professional can help you work through these complicated feelings so you can enjoy your life again.
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Most importantly, Brockman says, is to realize that grief after the loss of a pet is normal. Allow yourself time to process your feelings without shame or embarrassment. Then, when you're ready, consider finding a rescue to bring some joy to your life.