Owning any type of pet builds a connection between you and the animal in your care. While owning fish may not be quite the same as owning a dog or a cat, it is still a creature that you have raised and nurtured. Many fish live to be more than ten years old, meaning you’ll have dedicated ten or more years to caring and raising the fish in your aquarium. Eventually the time will come when your fish passes on, or needs your assistance in passing on, and you will have to deal with the grief that every pet owner feels when their companion passes on. Here are some hints and tips to help you deal with your grief and move on.

1. Never Feel Foolish
Pet owners often feel foolish when the loss of a pet causes them to grieve, but why should it? We have lost a long-time companion, someone who has shared our highs and lows. Pets are there with us each and every day. They endure our sad moments, share our ecstatic ones, and persevere through our moments of temper or depression. When you lose a pet, whether a cat, dog, bird or fish, don’t allow anyone to make you feel foolish for your grief. It is normal, common, and completely understandable.

2. Remember that Grief is a Process
There are five stages of grief and everyone goes through at least some of them. Don’t be surprised if you experience them as well with the loss of your pet. The five stages are:
Denial
Anger
Bargaining
Depression
Acceptance

3. Your Other Fish Will Mourn As Well
Animals know when their companions are missing and a mated fish pair will certainly notice if their mate is not around. Don’t be surprised if your fish appears to be processing their way through the stages of grief as well. It may help to get a new mate to help them get through the grief more quickly. Keep in mind though that you won’t want to just dump a new fish into the tank. Acclimate them to one another through fish screening.

4. Have a Funeral
Flushing your fish is not the best way to handle your deceased fish, and many fish are frankly too large to be flushed. So help yourself and have a funeral. Call over friends, put together some finger foods, prepare a small eulogy, and use the time to let your friend go.

5. Find Support
There are a wide number of fish and aquarium related forums where other fish owners gather together to communicate about both the ups and downs of owning fish. Consider joining one and getting to know others who will be able to help you manage your grief and find ways to move on.