Dealing with the loss of a pet

September 26, 2011 1:39:49 PM PDT
Are you a dog person or a cat lover?

57 percent of Americans own one or the other. They touch our lives and our hearts. So how do you cope when it's time to say goodbye?

For 14 years, Idgie shared a life with her master, Regina Perata.

"She was always with me and when I came home, she was right there," said Regina.

But when Idgie started getting sick, "By the end we were up like all through the night every 2, 3 hours," adds Regina.

Regina knew it was time to let go.

"At some point I just had a conversation with her and said when you're uh, when you're ready you need to let me know," Regina said.

Her journey to healing began with a pet loss support group.

Enid Traisman has led groups like these for 25 years.

"There's some stuff around the final stages that I still really need to deal with."

To begin healing, she recommends journaling about your life together.

"As people begin to heal from grief, they worry that they are going to forget their loved one. They're worried that they are going to forget the little details. So this provides a special place for them to write them," said Enid.

Another tip is to write a goodbye letter.

"Maybe somebody had regrets or guilt. That comes up a lot. And so they can journal in there. You know something I regret is such and such and if I had to do it over again this is what I'd do," she adds.

Create a memorial. Think pictures, candles or whatever feels right for you.

For Regina that meant a year of grieving. Now pregnant with twins, she'll share with them the lessons Idgie taught her: loyalty, patience and compassion.

Every Monday night at 7 eastern standard time, people from all over the world light candles in honor of pets that have passed.

To find a pet loss support group near you, ask your veterinarian or humane association for a recommendation.