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How to cope when you lose a pet

Pete English photo Pete English · 19 Oct, 2020

Pete introduces some of his past and present pets and talks about what can help us when one of our pets dies.

Hello, this is Thomas the cat. He just wants to say a quick hello.

Thomas wasn't always called Thomas. When we got him, he was called Tilly Tom cause they actually thought he was a girl, so he was called Tilly, and then they worked out that he was a boy, so they added "Tom". But when we got him, I thought there is absolutely no way I'm calling across the garden "Tilly Tom, Tilly Tom". So he is Thomas.

He's a very clever cat. Last Christmas, he actually wrote his own card and present list, which was very impressive.

But today, I want to talk to you about pets. This is one of my pets. (I think he wants to go out.) We all love our pets. Well, not everyone does, not everybody loves pets. But if you've got a pet, you probably really, really love your pet. Dogs and cats particularly can live for many years, and we had a little cat previous to this. He was called Teddy.

That's a picture of Teddy. He lived to be about 20, quite an age for a cat. So for those of you who've grown up with a pet, you might well have had them for your whole life, and when a pet dies, it's no less of a loss than losing a human being. It's still a bereavement.

Now, the word "bereavement" actually means to be robbed of something or someone, and that's how it feels, isn't it, when you lose a pet. And I remember when Teddy got run over and I was just in total shock. I went to the vets and I couldn't even speak, and I went on from there to the office somehow, and I remember somebody who didn't have pets saying to me, "Well, it was only a cat." They really didn't understand.

So if you've experienced that sort of thing, if you've experienced something traumatic, like having an animal get run over and you've seen that, that is a traumatic experience and you may well have flashbacks. You might have times when you recall what you saw, and it's quite important actually, as your brain processes that, if it's not gone away after a couple of weeks, just have a word with your doctor and arrange to talk that through with somebody.

But for most of us actually, just the following tips, this is Pete's top tips for managing the death of a pet.

Before I tell you my tips, people have some strange pets, don't they? My friend has a couple of alpacas. These are her alpacas. They're great. Good fun to go for walks with.

So my top tips for managing the death of a pet are find a friend who's got a pet. If your pet has died, they will understand what it feels like to have a pet and they'll understand what it must feel like for you to lose a pet. Allow yourself time to grieve. Grieve is experiencing all the feelings related to a loss. So you might feel... You just feel lost without your pet, you might feel angry, you might feel guilty, or you will feel very sad, so allow time. If you're at school, tell your teacher. If you're struggling, your teacher will understand that this is a significant thing. Talk to your teacher.

Next, don't pester mum and dad for another goldfish, hamster, aardvark, whatever pet you have just lost. Just spend some time remembering the pet that you have lost. Maybe get a picture and frame it. I went through my pictures of my animals. This was Archie. Archie used to be called Arnold before we had him. What a silly name! There he is with the Gruffalo. That's Archie. Silly dog. Talk to your family about the memories of your pet and the funny things that your pet did.

I remember a quite well-known national speaker came to my house once and had tea with us. Teddy sneaked up on a plate of sandwiches that he'd got and nicked the ham out of the sandwich. We were so embarrassed.

Finally, there are some great charities out there actually that deal with the loss of a pet. One of them that I found is called bluecross.org.uk, bluecross.org.uk. Have a look at that website, and if you've suffered any losses, have a look at the website that I help run called ataloss.org.

So there's some tips. I guess it boils down to talk about it. Find somebody who will understand and talk about it, because losing a pet is huge and it's not just a silly thing. Whatever that pet is and you've been close to it, it's a big thing, so talk about it, get a bit of help, and work it through with somebody else. Thanks.

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