How to cope with the death of a pet
Two pet owners share with us how they overcame the loss of their pets.
For pet owners, pets are a big part of our lives, giving us company and being a source of support for us. We look forward to going home to them after a tiring day, just as much as they look forward to greeting us when we arrive home.
Becoming emotionally attached to your pet makes it all harder to say goodbye to them when it’s their time to go. Some owners may have been expecting the departure of their pets, while others never saw it coming.
Youth.SG spoke to two pet owners who share their experiences with the passing of their pets. They also gave some advice for other pet owners who are coping with their loss.
Christel Yan, 19, lost her pet dog Faith in early February this year after spending 10 years together.
“Before Faith passed, she was sick from pancreatitis for some time. She was puking almost nightly and lost her appetite. It was a tough period and it was hard to watch her suffer.
“I wasn’t prepared for her passing at all, even though she was sick. It still felt very sudden and shocking. I don’t think you can ever be prepared for such things to happen,” said Christel.
Faith’s passing also took an emotional toll on Christel, who had her dog since she was nine years old.
“It was and still is very difficult. I spent a lot of nights crying and it was really tough because Faith actually slept with me every night since I was young. I suddenly felt all alone.
“I still tear up when I look at old pictures of us. Since they are like family members, I doubt you’ll ever move on or get over their death fully. You just learn to cope with the death and focus on other things,” admitted the polytechnic student.
Thankfully, Christel’s family and friends supported her through the difficult time, which she said was a blessing for her. She went out with her friends and family to distract herself from Faith’s death.
About a month after Faith passed, Christel decided to adopt a new dog as a way to cope with the loss.
“There are many dogs in Singapore that don’t have homes. I figured that if I had the resources and ability to give another animal a home, I should adopt another dog.
“I felt that I had a lot of love to give and my whole family felt a void when Faith passed on since she was with us for so long.
“In a way, it was like diverting my love for Faith towards another dog,” shared Christel, who adopted Tia, a rescue Singapore Special, on Mar 14.
However, not everyone can muster the strength to adopt another pet after experiencing the death of a pet.
37-year-old Cassandra Hale is another pet owner who has gone through the passing of her pets, not once but twice.
She had two pets, Didi, a Yorkshire terrier and Tiger, a Tabby cat. Both of them had accompanied Cassandra from her teenage years to adulthood. Didi lived for around 16 years and Tiger was with her for 13 years.
In 2017, Cassandra made the difficult decision to put down Didi when she became immobile. Didi’s health deteriorated after suffering from various health problems.
Tiger passed on in 2019 while he was hospitalised for diabetes and pancreatitis.
“My animals were not only my best friends and members of my family, but were very much my ‘fur children’. Witnessing the suffering and the eventuality of my dog’s death was highly stressful, emotionally and mentally. I not only felt insurmountable grief, but guilt for feeling like I did not do enough.
“At that time, my cat ‘cushioned’ the death of my dog. However, when he passed on, the pain and grief had amplified.
“My relationship with my cat was much like mother and child. I had raised him from a very young kitten,” shared Cassandra, who had been too emotionally affected to get another animal companion.
While Cassandra has accepted the death of Didi, overcoming Tiger’s death is still difficult for her. However, she believes that she will be able to accept his death with time.
Cassandra shared: “I think there is no real formula to cope other than to go through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). I went through these stages from the point of my pets dying to when they departed.
“I was very down for quite a while, and I only felt slightly lighter after a year. After my cat’s death anniversary, I feel less emotional when I think of him as of late.
“I’m not too sure if I have truly ‘moved on’, but I would like to think of it as more of an acceptance that they are in a better place now. Moving on sounds very discarded, and I don’t like the term.”
Christel shared the same sentiments: “I don’t think I have moved on entirely from Faith’s death since it was quite a traumatic experience for me.”
Likewise, Cassandra encouraged others to adopt a pet if they are looking for a new animal companion.
“I would always support adoption, provided one is ready in ‘all senses’ and can meet the responsibilities of a pet-owner and treat the animal as kin, not an accessory,” added Cassandra.