I have not needed to think about this until now. How soon is too soon to get a new pet? When my biggest boy, Winston passed away suddenly, it felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest and as if that wasn’t enough, less than a month later I lost my little girl, so naturally my immediate answer to this question was, never again!
Speaking to family and friends, the answer is very divided, but the standard answer has been “right away!” That may not always be the best advice. Bringing a new pet into your life before you have had time to work through your grief can cause problems for both you and the pet. So when is the right time? There is just no single right answer to the question because everyone experiences grief differently.
For some, the loneliness of an empty house makes grieving more difficult, and a new pet can help the process. Others, however, may feel resentful toward a new pet obtained too soon. The best time to introduce a new pet is when you have worked through your grief enough to be confident that you can look forward to new relationship, rather than be reminded of your loss. For some people, that might be a matter of days or weeks; for others, it might be months or years.
Regardless of when you choose to bring a new pet into your home, take a look at the following tips, these might help you ease the transition and make the new relationship more rewarding for you, your family, and the pet.
Tips for Choosing a New Pet:
Don’t make a hasty decision. Give yourself time to think. Don’t let anyone rush you into a decision or pressure you into making a choice that isn’t right for you. (If it is not right for you, it will not be right for the pet either!). Also, don’t let a well-meaning friend or relative force the decision on you by getting you a new pet before you are ready.
Do not think of the new pet as a “replacement” for the one you lost. You do not replace relationships; you build new ones. You will build new memories and experiences with your new pet. Research your choice carefully. Shelters are overflowing with pets who were selected unwisely and subsequently “dumped.” Make certain the breed, size, sex, behavior, and needs of your new pet are appropriate for your lifestyle. Avoid the temptation to adopt the first animal you see to “fill the void.”
Involve all family members in the decision to obtain a new pet. In particular, consider the needs and feelings of your children. Children build strong attachments to pets, and may feel that giving their love to a new pet is “disloyal” to the previous pet. Make certain all members of the family have had a chance to work through their individual grieving process. Involve everyone in discussions of what sort of pet to obtain. If possible, let your children help you select a new pet. Don’t give your new pet the same name as your previous pet.
Don’t expect your new pet to be just like the one you lost. Don’t expect the new pet to do the same things your previous pet did, respond in the same ways, or have the same characteristics. Instead, enjoy your new pet’s individual behaviors, responses, and characteristics as they develop. Do not compare your new pet to your previous pet. If you have spent many beautiful years with your companion it is hard to remember that they were puppies once too!
Consider the needs of your surviving pets. Will they welcome or resent a newcomer? Some pets seem to mourn the loss of a companion, and you may find that you need to introduce a new pet to comfort the survivor.
If you’re not certain whether you’re ready for a new pet, but you need to cuddle something furry and warm, consider volunteering as a “pet cuddler” or even a foster parent to help socialize adoptable animals at your local shelter. You’ll be able to give love and receive comfort without making a commitment. And who knows? You may discover the perfect companion to share your life with! If you are anything like me, this is an extremely dangerous option… “look hun, I just had to bring this one home… again!?
When a pet dies, grief is a normal and natural response. Do not let anyone tell you that you are crazy or silly to grieve over “just an animal.” The loss of a relationship brings pain. You need to do what you need to do to work through that pain. Cry, grieve, pound a pillow, talk to a friend or support group, conduct a memorial service that will help you pay tribute to your pet while saying good-bye. Then, when the time is right for you, you will be able to share your love with a new, well-chosen animal companion. For me? I am ready and looking forward to bringing my new boy home in February.
by: Lynette Hunt