Grieving the Loss of a Pet - How to Cope

Grieving the loss of a pet can be as real as any other type of grief, but people often won’t realise how great a loss it can be. For people who haven’t had animals in their lives, it might be impossible for them to understand that you are mourning a pet. 

Dogs, cats, horses and many other pets can be a large part of our everyday lives. They fill your life with companionship. They are ever present, always welcoming and totally dependent on you. Their life span can be up to 15 years, longer for cats sometimes. They might be ever present during your childhood and teenage years, or be constant companions when we are adults.  They are a major part of life.

sweet white dog

The Loss of a Pet is Painful . . . 

Physical loss - When we lose a pet the physical loss is enormous. There is no welcome when returning home, no wagging tail or licking. No purring or rubbing up against you. It is a comfort to stroke a pet. They say that it lowers your blood pressure and that pets are great stress busters. In so many ways they enhance our lives - the loss of their physical presence is huge. 

The care of animals takes up a lot of time. The change after the loss of a pet dog or cat can be great. You might feel an emptiness and wonder what to do with yourself.

Time spent with our pets can be much longer in the day than even with family members.

When there are no other family members, for those living alone, the loneliness following the loss of a pet can be extra painful. 

Loss of assistance pets - For those who are disabled, animals are not just a pet but an even more important part of life as they are essential for everyday living.  Those who lose an assistance pet may lose independence and freedom too until a new, trained animal can be found. 

It's only a pet!  How many of us have heard that? No, those of us who have lost a pet know that animals become part of the family. Grief for pets can be as great as for the loss of a human. However, there is also guilt. You might wonder why you feel so bad for a pet. 

You probably spent more time with your pet than you did anyone else. They always loved you, they never judged you, never argued with you, and were always there to talk to. It is a natural reaction to grieve for them.

You have no reason to feel guilt or even a bit foolish. This is such a normal, natural response to the loss of the companion you had for many years.

I will never forget the sight of a neighbour sobbing after the death of his beloved Persian cat. He was a squadron leader, a strong man, who was overcome with grief, but also with guilt that he should behave like this over the death of a cat. Like all of us – he was human too.

Accept how painful the grief for the loss of your pet, your constant friend can be. The human-animal bond is an amazing thing, and there is no shame in grieving for a beloved pet. 

The love of a pet is as meaningful as love of a friend, and the loss is as acutely painful. This article written by a man whose dog dies, expresses the feelings perfectly.

Tanya our dear departed husky cross dog

Ways to Cope with the Loss of a Pet

It's good to have some sort of ritual to say goodbye, especially if children are involved.  Families can cry together over the loss, bury the pet together as a way of coming to terms with the loss. Some people create a little headstone, or put up a plaque. Something to remember the pet. 

  • You will never forget your friend, your beloved pet, just learn to cope with each day in a different way without them. There will be an emptiness at first. Try and fill your time with different activities. Find a new hobby or practice some of the self-care ideas that we have shared here
  • Many people can’t face the emptiness of the home afterwards and need to replace the pet immediately. Others can’t face the fact that they could ever replace their pet. Do what feels right for you. 
  • If you're having difficulties don't be ashamed to ask for help.  You can get online grief counseling - see our recommendation at the bottom of this page, or perhaps just try a gentle meditation tape from Hypnosis Downloads, which has been designed by hypnotherapy professionals specially to help with pet loss. 
  • Sometimes people just don't understand and can say some very hurtful things. This can make things even worse, but perhaps these people have never had the joy of the love of a pet so try not to take it to heart.  Have a look at the Seven Worst Things You Can Say when Someone Loses a Pet.  If someone says these things to you, just realise you are not alone, and that they just simply don't understand. 
  • If you are having difficulties getting over your grief, you can also read some of the pages on this site for advice about Dealing with grief and coping with loss. The emotions of grief can be just as strong whether you lost a pet, a friend or a family member.
  • There are memorial sites where you can post photos, or even have a video made for remembrance. You might decide to remember your pet with a beautiful piece of Pet Memorial Jewelry.  Whatever you decide to do, enjoy the happy memories of your faithful companion and be grateful for the years that you spent with them.

Pet Memorials from Zazzle

Here are some ways to memorialize your pet from our Zazzle store. 

Children and the Loss of a Pet

The one certainty of any life is that we are going to die. Often the death of a pet is the first contact any of us has of experiencing death.

Children learn from the loss of a goldfish or hamster or the family dog. They learn to come to terms with losing their friend. Grief for pets is an education in life and death issues.

  • Talk to children about death.
  • Explain that the pet will not be coming back.
  • Tell them that the pet is at peace now and will have no more pain. 
  • Make sure if you say the pet has gone to heaven that the children are clear that the pet will not be coming back. 
  •  It can be a good thing for the children to bury their pet. They know exactly where it is and what has happened to it. They can be quite matter of fact about it and have lots of questions. 
  • Be as honest as you can.

The following product, the RemembeRing, provides a great activity to help kids say goodbye and process their grief.  It contains a circular frame for a photo of the pet and the inside section which comes out allows for a message to be written to allow for 'letting go'.  It also makes a good pet loss sympathy gift for any age.  

See also:

10 Tips to Help Children with the Death of a Pet Cat  - Although this article is written about the loss of a cat, the advice applies to the loss of any pet for a child.  

Best Ways to Hold a Dog Funeral

Recommended Reads: 

Related Pages: 

Coping with a Sudden Pet Bereavement

Pet Cremation - 5 Helpful Tips

Coping with the Loss of a Cat

Pet Loss Keepsakes

Pet Memorial Jewelry

Comforting Dog Quotations

Pet Memorial Poems

Loss of a Pet Quotes

Loss of a Horse Quotes

This page is dedicated to the memory of all the wonderful pets that have enriched our lives.

Where to get help: 

Have You Considered One-on-One Online Grief Counseling? 

Get Expert and Effective Help in the Comfort of Your Own Home

The following information about online counseling is sponsored by 'Betterhelp' but all the opinions are our own. To be upfront, we do receive a commission when you sign up with 'Betterhelp', but we have total faith in their expertise and would never recommend something we didn't completely approve.  

Do you feel alone and sad with no support and no idea how to move forward?  It can be tough when you are stuck in grief to find the motivation to get the most out of your precious life. 

Online counseling can help by giving you that support so you don't feel so alone. You can have someone to talk to anytime you like, a kind and understanding person who will help you to find meaning in life again, to treasure the memories of your loved one without being overwhelmed and to enjoy your activities, family and friends again.

  • Simply fill out the online questionnaire and you will be assigned the expert grief counselor most suitable for you.  It only takes a few minutes and you don't even have to use your name.  
  • Pay an affordable FLAT FEE FOR UNLIMITED SESSIONS.  
  • Contact your counselor whenever you like by chat, messaging, video or phone. 
  • You can change counselor at any time if you wish.
  • Click here to find out more and get started immediately.
  • Or read more about how online counseling works here.  
Woman Crying. Get Started with Online Counselling

Sales from our pages result in a small commission to us which helps us to continue our work supporting the grieving.  

Hypnosis for Grief - 10 Ways It Can Help You

Try a gentle hypnotherapy track to relax the mind. Learn how self-hypnosis can help you cope with grief at any time of the day or night.  

Read more about it here. 

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