How do I cope with the guilt?

Whatever reason there is for having a pet put to sleep, guilt is an emotion that without fail we will nearly all experience. However right we know our decision was or is, there will always be the question ‘did I do the right thing?’ or ‘am I making the right decision?’.

I’ve been through it and I still experience it occasionally. Should I have waited? What if I hadn’t gone through with it?

I would say if you are in the position where you are faced with making this decision, think about the alternatives. The fact you are thinking about it suggests that your pet is in a place where they are not happy due to pain or discomfort. If you have explored all the options for keeping them comfortable and you can’t do any more, you can say “I’ve done my best”.

No one has an endless pot of money, and even if they did, there is not always an answer that money can buy to make our animals healthy or young again. As long as you have done your best and made decisions with the best interests of your pet at heart, you can not have done any more.

Dwelling on the ‘what if’s’ only makes the guilt worse. I have found reframing my thoughts from ‘what if’ to ‘I did what I could’ and realising how much quality of life was given through the steps I took helps.

Sudden loss
Experiencing the sudden loss of a pet through illness or accident perhaps caused more feeling of guilt than an expected event. Dealing with the emotions that follow such a traumatic event can be devastating.

I have never been through this personally however my horse did break his leg in the field and I experienced the ‘what if’s’ throughout his recovery.

I think we have to accept that sometimes stuff happens that we have no control over. As long as we have not made a conscious decision to neglect or cause harm, we have to give ourselves permission to forgive. Hanging on to the negative emotions is damaging both emotionally and physically.

If anyone is finding coping with the sudden loss of a pet, the Blue Cross Pet Loss and Bereavement support line is available free of charge.