The loss of a pet is more than just the loss of an animal, it is the loss of a companion and friend.
Whether it was your bearded dragon that died, or any other pet you loved, it is likely you are experiencing the stages of grief and you may need the support of family and friends to help you progress.
Unfortunately, telling your family or friends ‘my bearded dragon died last night’ doesn’t always bring the comfort and support you might expect. Not all family and friends understand our attachment to our scaly friends.
- Is my Bearded Dragon dead or sleeping?
- Why the Loss of a Pet Upsets Us So Much
- How do I Grieve my Bearded Dragon?
- My Bearded Dragon died, what do I do?
- Paying tribute after your Bearded Dragon has passed away
- Poems for Grieving
Is my Bearded Dragon dead or sleeping?
If you are positive your bearded dragon has died then skip this bit. If you are not 100% sure your bearded dragon is dead, then consider:
- Your bearded dragon may be brumating and not dead.
- Get a vet to help assess.
There are some unique challenges with reptiles in assessing death. For example, after a reptile’s brain has died its heart can beat (Simpson, n.d.) and the body can continue for hours (Pollock, 2012).
Even for vets, there is no way to be completely sure of death (Pollock, 2012) except where decomposing has started, or vital body parts are damaged. So don’t give up with your bearded dragon until you are absolutely sure.
The heart can keep beating after death.Pollock, 2012
Why the Loss of a Pet Upsets Us So Much
Many of us share a strong bond and love with our animal companions. Our bearded dragons bring companionship, joy, and fun to our lives. They can add structure to our days, keep us social and active, offer a sense of meaning or purpose and aid us to overcome challenges in life. So, it’s normal to feel beset by grief and loss when your cherished bearded dragon dies.
Death of a cherished pet can leave us feeling devastated and generate all sorts of painful and difficult emotions. Never feel ashamed or guilty about grieving for your best companion.
While we all respond differently to loss, the way you show your grief will often depend on various factors such as your personality and age, the age of your pet, and the conditions of their death. Generally, how important your pet was to you will determine the intensity of your emotional pain.
If you lived alone and your pet was your only companion, it will be harder coming to terms with their loss. You may even feel a profound sense of guilt if you were unable to provide expensive veterinary treatment to prolong your pet’s life.
While going through loss is an inevitable part of owning a pet, here are some ways to help you get through the harder moments, cope with the pain.
How do I Grieve my Bearded Dragon?
Everyone experiences grief in different ways, and it takes time. How you grieve your bearded dragon will be different for others, there is no “normal”. It may take weeks, to months, or more.
Ignoring the pain may likely make it worse. Allow yourself to go through the stages of grief and heal over time. Don’t repress your emotions and feelings. Let it transpire and experience the feelings of sadness that will come.
I feel guilty my bearded dragon died
Feeling guilty that your bearded dragon died is truly not uncommon. Thoughts of ‘what if’s’ will come in like, ‘I should have taken him to the vet’ or ‘I should have changed this one thing’.
Perhaps they were valid, perhaps they were not. Either way, this is one of the stages of grief and holding on to them will slow you down. You know this. You cannot change what has been done, but you can change your next moment and the moment after that.
Prayer of Serenity
Recite the Prayer of Serenity (by Reinhold Niebuhr), feel the meaning in it.
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next
I can’t believe my Bearded Dragon died!
Another early stage of grief is denial. In this stage, you may feel like your pet is still alive. You may have a hard time coming home to find your bearded dragon is not waiting for you. There is no meal to be prepared, no play to be had.
Denial of your bearded dragon death will make it harder for you to move past your pet’s death and cope. Practice breathing short breaths in, long breaths out, let is pass.
Release your anger in healthy ways. Anger is a major emotion in the grieving process. Your anger may be focused on what killed your pet.
Let yourself be angry for a time, you will know how long is enough. If it gets to bitterness and rage, it is going too far and will only make you feel worse.
Anger can also be a distraction from resolving your feelings of grief and make you hold onto your grief. Release it and begin to heal.
Spend time with your family and friends. Concentrate on caring for yourself. Do activities that make you feel good like mingling with good friends, hiking outdoors, or doing a project that inspires you. Focus on activities that can help you to discharge your anger in a way that feels useful and healthy.
Dealing with depression
The feeling of depression is a natural symptom of grief that can make you feel helpless to cope with your emotions. While feeling sad about the death of your pet is important, feeling depressed can cause you to feel worn out, lonely, and isolated.
Feelings of depression can be combated by leaning on friends and family, involving yourself in activities you enjoy doing. Work on your feelings of sadness and seek help if it feels like it is becoming depression.
Getting support and caring for yourself
Share your emotions and feelings with loved ones.
Seek comfort with family and friends who have also lost pets. They understand how it feels to lose a pet and are likely to be sympathetic to your grief. Talk and share memories of your pets.
Go for a walk with a friend. A change of scenery, exercise and a sensitive ear listening to you remembering your pet affectionately will help the grief. No need to talk, just walk.
Keep in mind that some people may not comprehend how deep the loss of your bearded dragon is to you. Connect with other pet owners who have also experienced loss and grief.
Try exploring a new interest like drawing, painting or joining a fitness group. Exercise enhances your mood and helps you to overcome feelings of depression.
You can also practice self-care by taking time on your own to read or do something relaxing and calming. Don’t be alone for too long as this can lead to loneliness and isolation. Keep a balance of time with others and yourself to ensure you are taking care of your physical and emotional needs during this period.
Sometimes, grief can be so devastating it is too much to handle on your own. If after you have talked to family and friends you are still feeling depressed, upset, powerless and unable to function, you can speak with a counsellor or psychologist. If you cannot get an appointment quick enough, see your doctor first.
My Bearded Dragon died, what do I do?
Now your bearded dragon has died there are of course things you must do. The first steps are:
- Letting go of the body. Cremation or burial are both valid options. Cremations can be arranged through your vet or directly with a pet cremation service. If you prefer to bury your bearded dragon, prepare the hole deep enough that it will not be disturbed by any passing creature. If you are in Australia, most states will require you to report the death to the regulatory authority. You may have to keep the body until they have given the go ahead to do otherwise.
- Cleaning up and packing away your bearded dragons house and accessories.
- Consider if and how you would like to pay tribute.
Paying tribute after your Bearded Dragon has passed away
Here are some ways you might like to pay tribute after your Bearded Dragon has passed away:
- Organise a memorial or funeral service for your pet. When your bearded dragon died a small service in honouring your pet’s life or a more elaborate one.
- Create a physical reminder for your pet.
- Create a photo album of your pet
- Commission a portrait
- Order a pet memorial plaque
- Get a tattoo of you are pet…just don’t do it until you are moving out of grief. Never make decisions on anything that will impact you for life during grief that you don’t have to.
- Support an animal charity in memory of your pet. You can donate your time or money to an animal charity in your pet name for his memorial. Help other pet owners to take care of their pets.
- Remembrance Book. Add your own dedication in the online remembrance book. Perhaps one day it will also help others to come feel some solace knowing they aren’t alone either.
- Simpson, D (Dr). (n.d.) Ending It All: Euthanasia of Reptiles. Karingal Veterinary Hospital, Victoria.
- Pollock, C. DVM, DABVP. (2012) How to Verify Life (and Death) in Reptiles. https://lafeber.com/vet/how-to-verify-life-and-death-in-reptiles/
Poems for Grieving
We Meet Again
Smile my sweet prince, I am with you again.
Can you feel my presence? I sense you can.
I do not suffer, I feel no pain.
I am free from the world with much bigger plans.
Smile my sweet prince, for we meet again.
I Am Fine
Ahh little princess, you feel so much pain.
But it serves you no use, I am not of this plane.
My purpose was growth, both yours and mine.
We made it sweet princess, don’t weep, I am fine.
I am Here in the Sunlight
I am here in the sunlight that warms the day
I am here in the moonlight that lights your way
I am here in the rain that leaves all anew
I am here when you wake up, all around you.
I Live On
Spend no money on my body
Pay me no tribute at all
My body was but a transport for soul
Its gone, but I live on.
Joy and Happiness
Remember the times that were good and fun,
Use them for happiness and joy.
Do me great honor by moving along,
Spend no time on sorrow.
We reached new levels of learning in life
And our time is now at an end
But only on this physical plane
Where our souls are not confined.
Share your story in the comments.