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 Pet Loss and Pet Related Grief 
 Unresolved loss  - when your pet has not come home...

Click through for a comforting poem for lost pets by Kerri MarshEarly days
People going through the unresolved loss of a much loved pet, often tell us that that it is much harder to cope with the "not knowing" than it would be with knowing that their pet had died, or even if their pet was living happily somewhere else with another family... It's the "not knowing" that hurts so much. They don't know if, or when to grieve. Or when (or how) to stop looking. Or how to even contemplate, let alone begin to accept, that a much loved family member may not be coming home again.

While some people give up far too soon, at the other end of the scale some people torture themselves for years and years looking for their lost pet at all costs. This can cost them hugely in time, stress, money and even relationships can suffer if the partner does not share the "crusade" to find a lost pet after a long period of time.  The hard part is knowing when to have hope, and when to stop looking - so you can get some closure and move forward with your life.

People with unresolved pet loss may experience distressing nightmares, poor sleeping, crying, feeling disconnected or "stopped" or just feel unable to get on with their life until something "happens". You may over eat or under eat. You may not fell like working, feel depressed, tearful or easily upset. The unresolved loss of a pet can cause severe stress, depression and anxiety. People can then lose time off work and become less productive in their life. A counsellor could help you deal with these perfectly normal feelings before there becomes a need for further intervention such as medication. Please do get support if you are feeling that you are not coping.

It is also common to start to imagine crazy theories. You may think your pet was stolen or you may view each passing dog, or person, with suspicion that they have possession of, or have hurt your missing pet. However grabbing onto one "theory" can be dangerous as you may stop checking out "all" the options. For example if you become convinced your pet was stolen whereas in reality, it had simply strayed, you may not check the obvious places for a lost stray such as the SPCA or pound - and miss finding your pet...A lot of people think their pets were stolen, yet in reality this is very rare in our experience, especially with cats.

Our lost pet advice and strategies will help ensure you do EVERYTHING you can, especially in the first days and weeks. Don't wait and see or sit on the couch crying doing nothing. Instead focus your energies on positive steps you can take to find your pet. By working through each step in the checklist, you will know you have done all that you can possibly do. You might well find your petand you will save yourself painful recrimination further down the track.

Effect on children
The unresolved loss of a pet can deeply affect both adults and children in a family.Often children have even stronger bonds with pets who perhaps normaly sleep or play with them. Then suddenly that daily routine and that special friend is gone without explanation. Children can suffer from diffulculty with sleeping, sadness, or anger that their pet is missing. Although we as parents and adults barley understand it ourselves, we need to help our children cope with and process this by allowing and encouraging them to talk about their feelings. As when a pet dies, we cannot "promise" to make it better or guranttw to find the pet. All we can do is sat we will try our vest and do everything we can. Invite them to help, ask them what their ideas are. Maybe they can help to deliver fliers with you, or to make a special poster to put up at school/preschool or outside your gate. This invovement will help them feel that they too are doing everything they can do - just as we adults need to feel we are doing everything in our power as well.

Early weeks

We recommend that people with lost pets keep their listings running with us on Petsonthenet for at least six months and that they also check the Found Pets regularly
, preferably daily, especially in the early weeks. To allow your listing to expire after only a week or two, is just way too soon. It is common for pets to take take weeks or months to be listed as found, so it is absolutely vital your listing be there for the "finder" to see and that you be checking those Found Pet listings

When much time has end point...

For those who have searched for a long time and when you start to feel the time is right, it can help to think of a "closure date" when you will give yourself permission to "close off" your search. That date could be months away from now but it gives you (and your family) an "end point".

As you approach your pre decided "closure date", think about how you may want to use the time that will now be freed once you are no longer doing flier drops, door knocks, internet searches and even the time you spend worrying. What will you replace that time with, that is good for YOU, that is positive and moves you forward?

Some people choose to volunteer to work with pets as a tribute to their own pet. Our volunteer who enters the SPCA ads, volunteers in memory of her own lost cat as it helps her heal and "give back" in his memory and to help others in her situation.

When your pre determined end date comes you could have a special remembrance ceremony, write a letter to your pet, visit their favourite place, plant a tree, post an online Tribute for them or any special thing that feels right to you to commemorate and acknowledge their life and your love for them.

Then give yourself time to grieve their loss. Always surround yourself with positive supporting people and take care of yourself.

This beautiful poem "Gone But Not Forgotten" may also help.

Considering a new pet
For many of us the thought of living without the purr of a cat or companionship of a dog is unthinkable, so a time will come when you are ready to welcome a new member into your family. We recommend that you leave this for at least 3 - 6 months if your pet is still lost to give your pet a chance to be found. If your pet comes home only to find an "interloper" in their place, that could go down badly with one or both pets, resulting in two unhappy animals who may then wander. You could also find yourself with double the number of pets that you can manage. 

It is not good to "replace" a pet quickly, allow yourself and your family time to accept and to grieve before you move on. Children may be agitating for a new pet very quickly but they need to understand a pet is not a commodity that can simply be replaced...For the same reason getting the same breed and colour of pet is not a good idea as it is easy for children to see it as the "same" pet, just living on and on through "new versions", which does not help them learn to understand and cope with important losses in their life.

More help
Help with coping with pet loss

Counselling to help with pet related loss and grief, including unresolved loss

"Lost But Not Forgotten" tributes on our website range from only $9.95 to $19.95 are able to be renewed. Funds raised from sales of Tributes help support this service so that we can continue to reunite and rehome pets throughout NZ and help others...



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Petsonthenet - NZ's nationwide database for lost and found pets, and pets for adoption. Reuniting and rehoming pets since 2002