Losing a Pet – The Grief is Real

Woman with a cat - reads: Having a pet is a risk, you always have the grief ahead, but that's the flip side of love.

At some time point in time most of us have welcomed a pet into our lives. Whether it was a dog, a cat, an iguana, a canary or a hamster, the bond we make with our non-human friends can be deep. Then comes the time we need to say goodbye, because most pets, outside of tortoises and a few others, will not outlive us. Losing a pet companion can be incredibly difficult. Fortunately, today people are more willing to share the grief they feel with the loss of a pet, opening up opportunities for friends and family members to help them through a difficult time.

When a pet dies, is important to allow yourself to grieve. Just because the one you lost was not human, does not mean the grief is not significant. Sometimes grief may be layered with questions. You may have missed a symptom of illness or made the choice to euthanize your pet to avoid additional pain, if so, unwarranted guilt can accompany the loss. It is best not to suppress these feelings. Finding someone to talk with who knows you and your pet or has experienced a similar loss can be amazingly helpful.

Do not belittle your grief, mourning a pet should not be compared to mourning the loss of a person. It is different, but the emotions can be just as strong. Don’t be afraid to reach out, people will understand. There are also numerous pet loss support groups and hotlines available if you are struggling to cope.

Lastly, it may help to memorialize your pet in some way. Many veterinarians will provide ashes or a paw imprint when an animal has died. Or you can create your own memorial with photos, artwork or by finding a place in the yard to plant a tree or flower, something tangible and lasting. It is fitting to keep them close in your memories, in honor of all the joy and love they brought into your home.

Our next blog will talk about ways to help a child deal with the loss of a pet.