For whatever reason your pet died, it is not your fault. You might have thoughts of “If only …” regarding your pet’s loss during the first few days. “If only I took the signs and symptoms they are showing seriously”. “If only I had the money to take them to the vet”. “If only I have taken care of them more”. “If only I haven’t given them the treat”.

Endless thoughts are popping in your head, finding a reason for what has happened and why it happened. Why didn’t I know they are feeling ill? Why didn’t I take them to the veterinarian sooner? Why didn’t I get a second opinion? And as a result of these, you couldn’t see anybody else but yourself, your shortcomings and wrongdoings, blaming yourself why your pet has died.

Guilt is a normal response when it comes to losing a pet. In whatever circumstance that your pet died, guilt will always be present. Sometimes, guilt becomes the reason why you feel depressed, lose confidence, think you are not a good pet carer, and refuse to get another pet. This article will talk about the importance of self-forgiveness while you are lamenting for your pet.

Sense of responsibility

Most people consider their pets as their children and part of their family. Hence, they feel a sense of responsibility towards their pets as with a child. Pets are dependent on us for food, love, care, safety, and shelter, and like infants, they can’t speak and tell us what they need nor what they feel. As a result, we are basing on our knowledge and instincts at the moment. What if we did something wrong? A pet dying because of something we didn’t provide might take a huge emotional toll on us.

Sometimes we make mistakes

Sadly, with one mistake, your world turned upside down. There are times that we make tragic mistakes regarding our pet, but probably more often than not, it doesn’t result in heavy consequences. Maybe we left the gate open or talked to a friend for a moment while the dog played at the park. Perhaps we didn’t see our pet sleeping in the driveway and got driven by or left their collar while playing by themselves.

That’s the reality. We make mistakes, and accidents happen. And knowing that our negligence or something that we didn’t do directly causes our beloved pet’s death can result in so much guilt and affect us completely.

Sometimes we make wrong decisions

As pet carers, we make decisions with regards to our pet’s healthcare. Since our pets cannot communicate with us, we make decisions based on what we see and what we feel towards their actions. We decide whether we go or not to the vet, when and where to get treatment, what symptoms to worry about, and many more. The condition of our pet relies on the decisions we make. There are instances that, due to this action, our pet passes away, and guilt is taking a toll on us.

Sometimes we do what we know is right

Perhaps you didn’t want your pet to suffer much longer and decided to put your pet to sleep. Euthanasia also causes pet loss guilt. Is it too soon? Did I just kill my pet? You may be thinking about such thoughts and couldn’t forgive yourself for what you have done. Though you know it is for their best interest, choosing to personally end your pet’s life can be tough to process.

The importance of self-forgiveness

Pet loss can be as devastating as a human loss. As human beings, sometimes our first instinct is to blame other things, the time, or someone, for the tragic event that has happened. But what do we do when we know that we have a part, intentionally or unintentionally, in the death of our pet?

What do we do when we want to blame ourselves?

Research says that to find some inner peace about your pet’s death, self-forgiveness is very important. Self-forgiveness is showing love and kindness to yourself, as well as not putting judgment and being indifferent to yourself. But how do you do it?

Tips to help you forgive yourself

1. Embrace your guilt

Embracing your guilt doesn’t mean you dwell in it and let it take over you. It means knowing and accepting that you feel guilty about what you have done, acknowledging that you have a part in your pet’s death. Though guilt is a distressing emotion and uncomfortable to confront, it is helpful to voice it out and talk about it with the people around you.

2. Be specific

You have to be particular about what you need to forgive yourself for. Ask yourself why you feel guilty. For instance, you left the door and gate open, and your dog ran out to the road and got ran over by a truck. You have to forgive yourself for forgetting to close the gate, not because of your negligence and failure as a pet carer in general. You didn’t purposely leave the gate open and didn’t wish for your pet to die. What you did is purely a human mistake.

3. Think about your intention

Recall your intention prior to the event leading to the death of your pet. What did you know about your pet’s condition? Why did you do that? What were the things that lead you to that decision during that time? Did you want to cause them harm? Did you give the best you could do?

You may have decided to wait and see more signs and symptoms of your pet before going to the doctor and not want to stress your pet out. Or you took some time looking before looking for your pet because you are used to missing your pet for a few days. Chances are, you didn’t intend to harm them.

4. Let go of feelings of shame

Guilt can morph into shame, especially if you know you made a mistake resulting in tragic consequences. Instead of knowing that you did a bad thing, shame makes you see yourself as a bad person. It is rooted in knowing that you know you are doing wrong at the time.

However, it is impossible that you purposely made the wrong decision. You did what you believed was right and did the best you could. Self-forgiveness reminds you that you are not a bad person. You did not intend to hurt your pet. Be kind to yourself. Don’t let the guilt cross into self-recrimination.

5. Show the same compassion to yourself as you would to a loved one

If a loved one experiences the same loss, what would you tell them? What would it take for you to forgive a loved one? Sometimes we set high standards for ourselves, and we are usually more compassionate towards others rather than to ourselves. Think of how you would talk to a friend or a family member in the same situation, and tell yourself the same words, and show the same affection.

6. Pay forward in making amends

We can never make amends to our pets for their passing. But while they cannot hear us ask for their forgiveness, we can make amends in honor of them. We can volunteer at the animal shelter, donate to animal-related organizations, or start an awareness campaign.

7. Talk to your pet

One way to do this is known as “The Empty Chair.” Imagine that your pet is sitting on an empty chair across from you. Talk to them about your feelings and your guilt. Then go to the empty chair and talkback like how your pet would respond to you. Many counselors are using this practice to help bereaved people and have proven effective in offering self-forgiveness.

8. Intently choose self-forgiveness

Self-forgiveness has to be an active choice. If you see yourself falling into self-condemnation, actively change and reverse your thoughts with more compassionate ones. As your thoughts can affect your emotions and feelings, be intentional and decide to interrupt negative thoughts concerning your pet’s death. At first, this could be hard and requires conscious effort, but this could come naturally with time.

Self-forgiveness is not denying that you did something wrong or claiming that you are not hurting. It is about not blaming yourself and knowing that you never had bad intentions towards your pet.

With time, self-forgiveness will let you remember the joyful times and precious moments you have with your pet rather than wallowing in the circumstances regarding their passing. Until that time, know that you are not alone and relieve the good memories you had with them. Check out Rainbow Bridge Pet Memorial if you want to commemorate and establish a pet memorial stone for your beloved pet.

We provide you high quality, customized pet memorial stones. Please browse our catalog and see the products and services we offer. If you have questions and inquiries regarding those we offer, reach out to us at 208-253-4557, or leave us a message at [email protected]. We would love to hear from you and help you with your pet memorial.