I recently lost my childhood horse, Amanda. To say that I feel devastated would be an understatement. I’ve spent more than a decade loving and learning from this horse, and it seems impossible to imagine life without her. But no matter how much I miss Amanda, I can’t stop life from moving forward, and I can’t bring her back. I can still learn from her, though, so here are four things that losing Amanda taught me about grieving a pet:
1. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve your pet.
First and foremost, please remember that there is no correct way to mourn your pet. Grief affects everyone differently, so we all react differently to losing our favorite animals. Mourning also doesn’t come with a time limit. I’ve known friends who seemed to be fine the day after they lost their pets, but I still feel sad about losing my horse weeks later. No matter how long I feel down, my feelings are valid. If you’re mourning a pet, there’s no shame in taking as much time as you need to heal.
2. Don’t feel ashamed that you’re grieving an animal.
Since Amanda passed away, I’ve felt a bit awkward telling people that I’m grieving a horse, not a person. Sometimes I feel like people judge my inability to stop crying over an animal, even though studies show that we feel the loss of our animals more intensely than we feel the loss of human friends or family. However, Amanda was so much more than a horse to me; she was a friend. My grief is valid, so I shouldn’t feel embarrassed. And if you’re grieving a pet, yours is, too.
3. Find creative ways to remember your pet.
Right now, I take comfort in finding ways to memorialize Amanda and keep her memory close. For example, I wear a locket with her photo in it so that she’s always with me. I’ve even donated to multiple charities in Amanda’s name to honor her and spread positivity in the wake of her death. If you’re grieving a pet, you can also create a photo memorial, place a pet cremation urn in your home or use an old feeding bowl as a planter to cultivate new life.
4. Talking through your grief can help you heal.
Amanda was an extremely special horse with an amazing story, and I love to tell the world about her. I genuinely want people to know how incredible she was, and I feel like it’s my responsibility to keep her legacy alive. I often fear that people will forget about her, but I refuse to let that happen.
Some people are hesitant to talk about Amanda with me because they don’t want to upset me, but I love reminiscing on positive memories of my horse. Since her death, I’ve laughed as I share happy Amanda stories and reminisce on her quirks. It’s also felt therapeutic to talk through the immense pain I’ve felt since losing my horse because I can’t bottle up my emotions for long.
Although losing a pet is the hardest part of owning one, I take solace in knowing that my horse lived a truly incredible life and I’m grateful to have gotten the chance to love her. If you’re grieving the loss of a pet, remember that no one can tell you the “right” way to grieve. It’s your journey, so mourn your pet in whatever ways feel right for you.
Featured Photo via author