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Grieving a Pet Loss

By Allison Gary, MA, LPC

It is hard to describe how much our pets can mean to us. For some, animals in the home are viewed as “just a pet”, for others a pet is a meaningful companion, a furry family member, a best friend, an emotional support.

A pet is a consistent part of our lives for as long as they are with us.

They are part of our routines, they may even be part of our activity and exercise, part of our socialization, even part of our identity! Pets are naturally therapeutic and many pets have helped us through life’s many challenges through their quiet support, loving snuggles, unconditional love, or even their unique personalities that make us smile and laugh despite whatever else in life we are dealing with. They give us a sense of meaning and purpose, forcing us up in the morning to take care of them. Caring for them is significant. They can be an incredibly important part of our lives. And the loss of them is the hardest part of pet ownership.

We are so sorry for the death of your beloved pet.

The emotions you share with your pet are real, and the grief you are experiencing for your pet is real and valid.

Some things we may experience when grieving a pet loss:

We feel responsible in some way(s).

We may feel guilt about care decision-making at their end of life.

We feel intense sadness, loneliness, or disbelief.

We may be shocked or disturbed by how quiet the house is after they’re gone.

We may struggle with reliving their end of life mentally.

We may hear insensitive or hurtful things from others, like “get over it” or “just get another pet”.

Take gentle care of YOU during this time!

  • Look after yourself – tend to your emotional and physical health needs
  • Be with people who understand – talk about your grief
  • Distractions can help (but don’t always avoid grief)
  • Capture memories and reminisce when you’re ready
  • Create something that honors them
  • Take your time when you consider getting another animal – only you can determine the right timing for you

For the printable version of this article, click here!