Rebirth is a common theme at this time of year. Our gardens are coming back to life, the nights are getting lighter and many people celebrate Easter.
It got me thinking about a question that bereaved pet owners often ask after the death of a beloved pet. When should I get another pet? But that isn’t the only question or concern that will arise for a bereaved owner thinking about getting another pet.
Is it too soon to get another?
It used to be the standard advice to get another pet straight after your loss. Those that find the new quiet a constant reminder may find that having a new pet will help to fill the void. However, this is not universally true. If you get another pet before you have taken time to grieve, you may find it difficult to look forward to a new relationship.
Whilst you may feel it is the right time to open your home and heart to another pet, it is important to remember other family members might not be ready.
I have been offered a puppy/kitten, but I’m not ready – what should I do?
This sounds like an easy question to answer. When a concerned family member or friend believes a new pet will help overcome grief caused by pet loss, the situation can become more complicated. Despite their best intentions, it may feel to you that your feelings of grief are being discounted.
Many people don’t understand the human-animal bond or the strength of emotions that pet loss can cause. Try to remember that the person making the comments or asking questions may not know how to comfort a bereaved pet owner.
Will my family think I am trying to replace my old pet?
Other family members may have had their bond with the deceased pet. They may feel sad and not be as ready for a new relationship. Bringing a pet into the home should be with the agreement of everyone in the household.
I don’t want a replacement
I’ve had cats and dogs throughout my life. Not one has ever been a replacement for a lost pet. Each relationship was/is unique. Pets will often display qualities that remind me of pets no longer with us. I have found myself smiling at the antics of one pet and how similar they are to others I’ve had in the past.
It could be said that the best way to memorialise your pet is through a new one. That new pet will exhibit behaviour or trait that will remind you of your departed pet and will bring a big smile to your face.
I don’t know if I can go through the pain of loss again.
Many bereaved owners say, “this is the last one” or “I won’t go through this again”. This is true for some people. The pain and grief of losing a pet are simply overwhelming. There’s no mystery why people make these statements; their emotions are raw, their hurt too recent. A bereaved owner may feel guilt over their pet’s passing and think that opening their heart to another is a betrayal of their pet’s memory.
In my experience of talking to pet owners, most will go on to have another pet. It may not be an immediate decision – some people wait weeks, months or longer. The experience of sharing your life with a pet that shows unconditional love is an experience most want to repeat.
Will I be able to love a new pet as much?
Owners that have suffered a bereavement may feel scared that they won’t be able to form the same bond or feel the same love that they felt for their deceased pet. In one sense, they are exactly right; the bond won’t be the same.
“There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice.”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
Love does not divide it multiplies. When you are ready for a new relationship you will find there is room in your heart for the memories of previous companions and space for the new feelings of love.