Pets and Grief

June 18, 2024

When we talk about pets and grief, many things come to mind. These include how we cope with losing our pets, understanding if pets grieve, and knowing how pets can help us. At Coastal Funeral Center, we’ve seen many pets get displaced from their home after losing their owner. We’ll share how to take steps to make long-term plans for them.

 

Coping with the Loss of a Pet

Losing a pet is very difficult, whether it is expected or happens suddenly. They have been our companions and a part of our family, yet others in your life may not acknowledge the loss as they would with a human loved one.  This can leave you feeling like the grief is harder to work through and can leave you feeling lonely.

Pet grief is very real, and takes time to heal. The Humane Society recommends these resources:

Do Pets Grieve?

While dogs and cats may not fully grasp the concept or finality of death, many pets exhibit behavioral patterns that suggest that they are experiencing grief.

The VCA Animal Hospital shared these signs that your pet is grieving:

  • Change in appetite.
  • Change in vocalization.
  • Change in habits.
  • Change in social interactions.
  • Change in grooming or bathroom habits.
  • Seeking behavior.

 

Pets and Grief

 

How to Plan for Who Would Take Care of Your Pet

Thousands of pets are placed in animal shelters each year when their owner passes away. It is becoming more common for pet owners to have a plan in place. 27% of pet owners now include their pets in their will, from setting up who their caretaker will be, to leaving instructions on care, or to setting aside money for their future care.Mari

At Coastal Funeral Center, we’ve seen many loved ones unexpectedly inherit a pet. Sometimes that is a comfort and a joy, but other times that person may not be able to or willing to take in the pet.

 

One member of our team, Zia, had this exact situation two years ago. Someone passed away, leaving behind their 21-year old cat.  The family members had driven from out-of-state and could have taken in the cat if it weren’t for their other pets that they were already caring for. The cat, Mari, had been with the owner for her whole 21-year life. They wanted to stress the importance of finding a home instead of a senior rescue shelter to place her in so she wouldn’t have additional stress and confusion. They turned to Coastal Funeral Center to help find the cat a home. Zia ended up bringing the cat home, and they are still loving life at 23 years old!

 

Steps to Take:

We recommend taking the following steps to make sure that your pet is taken care of:

  • Name a caretaker, and a back-up caretaker in your will for your pet.
  • In a safe place, have basic instructions or facts about your pet (who their veterinarian is, any medications that they are on, what they eat, and any critical parts of their routine for someone to know.)
  • Set up a trust to cover any expenses for your pet in the case that you pass away.
  • Include any end-of-life wishes that you would want shared.

 

Another team member at Coastal Funeral Center has taken steps to set up a trust for their bird, Rain-Bow. Rain-Bow’s original owner had become ill and could no longer care for her. Knowing that Caique Parrots can live up to 40 years, Sharon wanted to ensure that Rain-Bow would be taken care of. The trust has provisions for the bird’s care in the event of her passing. The trust names a caregiver and two additional caregivers if the first is not available or willing.

Rainbow Kalani

Resources

There are organizations who help pet owners stay united with their pets when they become seriously ill, and help rehome animals if they owner passes away. Pet Peace of Mind does just that, and is active in 43 states.

Pets are great medicine for the anxiety that comes from dealing with a serious medical condition. Countless patients say their pet is their lifeline. Keeping their beloved pets throughout their end-of-life journey—and finding homes for them after they pass—can be one of the most important pieces of unfinished business

— Dianne McGill, President and Founder, Pet Peace of Mind

 

How pets help us with grief

Pets offer us companionship, a sense of purpose, and emotional support. A loving animal can offer comfort to help ease you through the different stages of grief. Here are some ways that they help:

  • They keep us active, which is good for our mental health. Simply taking your dog for a walk can get you outside and active. This will give you a Serotonin boost that can help your overall mood and sleep.
  • Pets are wonderful companions. After a loss of a loved one, having your pet by your side can help you not feel as alone.
  • They can help us be happier: Studies have proven that pets decrease the amount of Cortisol that we produce, which is the stress hormone. When we are grieving, our bodies experience extra stress. Being around our pets can keep the Cortisol levels lower, and leave us feeling happier.
  • Pets do not pass judgement. When grieving, some days are going to be easier than others. Having the unconditional love of a pet gives you someone to talk to, to feel comfortable telling (and retelling!) stories to, and offering a listening ear.

 

Older Pet Adoption

Summary

Our pets are a huge part of our lives. Understanding that they grieve and how they help us when we grieve is helpful to everyone. And, knowing that losing a pet is like losing a family member. Taking steps to cope is critical to you processing your loss.

 

Takeaway: We encourage you to take steps to make alternate plans for your pet in case something happens where you could no longer care for them.

  • Have a backup caregiver.
  • Add wording to your will.
  • Make “just in case” notes about your pet.
  • If possible, leave and dedicate funds in your trust for their care

 

Additional Resources:

 

About Coastal Funeral Center

At Coastal Funeral Center, we are committed to being dedicated guardians of family and community, while holding on to the legacy we established as a family-owned funeral home. Originally A.M Gamby Funeral Home, Coastal Funeral Center joined Green Hills Memorial Park in 2018 to better serve the community of the South Bay and Palos Verdes Peninsula. During this transition, we expanded our services as an all-inclusive facility and built on the successes of Green Hills Memorial Park. We’re proud of our legacy of personal service and our deep roots in the community, which we’ve been part of for more than 80 years. We provide customized funeral service options that meet your financial needs and honor your loved one like the beautiful individual they were. To learn more, visit https://coastalfuneralcenter.com.

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