pet loss grief

When a person you love dies, it’s natural to grieve, express your grief and expect friends and family to provide understanding and comfort. When a beloved pet becomes ill or dies, the pain and sadness can be just as painful. However at times we may feel confused about the passing of an animal we love. Many people feel love of a pet is just as important to us as a member of our own family and may be even more painful or difficult to process.

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The power of pet Love

The love we feel when we interact with our pets creates a bond like no other. The unconditional love a pet feels for its caretaker can create a love free from judgement and lacking in the complications of a relationship. This is one reason why the bond of an emotional support animals has helped so many people feel love and express love to another when life trauma has closed their hearts. When time or illness claims a pet from our lives, the grief can be overwhelming. At times our grief can be further complicated by the fact that we can be required to make decisions about our companion’s end of life experience.

Your pet is a member of your family

Many people feel a bond so strong with a pet that ther loss feels just like losing a member of your family. Dogs, cats or just animal love in general, pets can become as much a member of the family as their human counterparts. You undoubtedly love your pet and probably considered them as member of your family too. Many people, especially those for whom the pet is a constant companion, confide in their animals, talk to them, give and receive deep affection, and come to count on their presence as a critical part of the day. Some of us are even lucky enough to have our pets with us while we work, eat dinner with them and have a fluffy sleeping partner to keep them warm. So when your beloved pet transitions, it’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your sorrow.

Animals provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support, and unconditional love during their life with you. If you understand and accept this bond between humans and animals, you need to take the first step toward coping with pet loss: knowing that it’s okay to grieve when your pet dies. Don’t tell yourself or let anyone tell you otherwise – you have a right to grieve.

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How to cope with grief from losing a pet

For the family, a pet’s death is felt differently by each member, and humans grieve in unique and special ways. Children may have moments of painful grief interspersed with play. For adults, special memories of excitable greetings when coming home from work or lingering times having coffee on a back porch enjoying quiet time with a pet may bring move us back and forth from the busy tasks of our day to the grief of our pet.

It is important to understand that we all grieve differently and best not to judge. Also equally important not to be judged. Be kind to yourself and understand that those around you have different connections to your beloved family pet. remember to seek out and spend time with family or trusted friends that understand you and can support you in your grief process.

Make every effort to interact with friends and family to cope with the loss of your pet, even if you are not speaking of your pet in the moment, you will can feel supported by the interaction. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross outlined stages of grief and these apply to the loss of a pet. We may move back and forth between stages, get stuck at one stage or skip some entirely.

Consider contacting a pet loss support hotline or getting help from an online group like or even volunteering at a local humane society. Contact with needy animals may help you as you grieve for your own loss, knowing that you’re providing them with much-needed love and physical contact.

Create a memorial: Either IRL or virtual, a memorial is a great tool for to feel supported by a community and to feel connected while remembering all the joy your pet brought to your life.