Dealing with the Loss of a Pet (2023)

Taking care of yourself, engaging in grief practices, and talking to others who are related can help you through the pet grief process.

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Losing someone you love can be devastating, and the same goes for the death of a cat, dog, or other type of pet.

I know this because I have now experienced the loss of four beloved animals who have been with me from infancy to their last breath.

The death of my cat Marilyn stands out the most. She was diagnosed with cancer in March 2017 and she lived for several months under the care of a veterinary oncologist.

I have often called Marilyn "adventurous kitty." I learned that there isadventurous cat communityand their human companions. It's a community that Marilyn and I were happy to be a part of.

He loved traveling and adventures. So she and I spent the rest of our lives wandering around Southern California.

When it was time to say goodbye, I just couldn't get her back to the vet. So I hired a mobile vet to accompany us on one last walk. He passed peacefully in my arms as I surveyed the city of Los Angeles.

Although the vets assured me that this was the right decision, it did not make the pain any less.

Why is it so painful to lose a pet?

(Video) Pet loss grief; the pain explained | Sarah Hoggan DVM | TEDxTemecula

As I reeled after the loss of Marilyn, a family member described the feeling oflose a petas if the air was sucked from your house. That's exactly how it felt to me.

"The specific reasons why it's so painful for a particular person are unique to that person," he says.nadja gaypert, Marriage and Family Therapist at LA Family Therapy in Los Angeles. Geipert has created her own grief toolbox to help clients.

"There are things you feel about that cat, that dog, that bird that no one else feels, which applies to all grief," he adds. "Their relationship is absolutely unique and his pet is absolutely irreplaceable in its unique qualities."

Every time I loved and lost a pet, it felt like the end of a chapter in my life. Marilyn helped me cope with the loss of my childhood rabbit, Fluffy. She also accompanied me during my student years and on the road to my career as a publisher.

I mourned Marilyn and the end of an era.


Geipert explains thatattachment theoryalso plays a role in processingpain.

Our attachment style develops in early childhood and is largely based on interactions with primary caregivers. What we learn during early development shapes our view of the world and shapes the way we connect with and engage with others.

"When we spend enough time with someone or something and there's a bond, when it's gone, it's like someone took your limbs," she says. "Eventually, our brain processes things as if they were part of us, like if you were a tennis player, eventually your brain stops distinguishing between the racket and the arm."


When animals are older or very sick, keepers are often faced with the incredibly difficult decision to say goodbye. This can lead to feelings of guilt. You may be thinking: "Did I make the right decision?" or "What if they had more time?"

When these feelings arise, it may help to change your attitude so that euthanasia is seen as an act of compassion in these circumstances.

Remember that if your vet told you to say goodbye, chances are your pet was in a lot of pain and wouldn't get better.

Because we all experience and process grief in our own way, there is no clear answer as to how long these feelings will last for you.

You may experience stronger feelings immediately after the loss, but these usually subside over time.

"It will take as long as it takes," says Geipert. It's not a linear process, and that's okay. Grief can come and go in waves.

Finding your own way can help during this time.Painand process the death of a pet. Here are some tips.

try to let you feel

You have experienced a loss and it is okay to feel all the feelings that accompany it.

"Cry whenever you feel like crying," says Geipert. However, she recommends using her judgment when and where appropriate.

"Tears release stress hormones." He adds that if you're not a hopeless crybaby, that's fine too. "Every path is different."

Try practicing self-compassion

Be good to yourself. try to commit to somethingself sufficiencyActivities throughout the grieving process. You can do this by making some extra space for your regular self-care activities or by trying something new that you think might feel restful.

If necessary, take time off from work.

Some self-care activities you can try at home include:

(Video) Pet Loss Syndrome | How to Cope with The Loss of A Pet

  • Soak in a warm bath
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • write diary
  • make time for a hobby

Consider speaking with someone who can identify

"Talking about how you feel is incredibly helpful in grief, so it helps to seek therapy or find a support group," says Geipert.

She recommends finding a waytalk about itwhat and how you feel You can do this with other people who have lost a pet, atherapist, or supportive friends and family.

He belonged to a community of disabled rabbits and an online adventurous cat community. Members were very supportive when I posted about losing a pet.

Try a grieving process

Societies and cultures throughout human history have engaged in mourning rituals to deal with the emotional pain that follows a loss. Trying a ritual can also help you grieve after the death of a pet. You could try something familiar, like a memorial, or you could develop your own practice.

On the anniversary of Marilyn's death, I still light an annual candle (a Jewish tradition to honor the anniversary of the death of a loved one).

Geipert says she did an exercise that really helped her after losing her cat. She wrote to him.

It is an exercise that he also recommends to his clients.

"Write a thank you note to your deceased pet," says Geipert. “Talk about everything you will miss and what you are most grateful for. Talk about what you regret. Say what you want to say.

Delete items at your own pace

Some people may want to dispose of their pet's belongings quickly after a loss, others may need to do so gradually.

If you find it difficult to drop your pet's items, do so at a pace that is comfortable for you.

Remember that there is no right or wrong way. This is your process.

Consider finding a way to commemorate your pet.

A great way to honor your love for your pet is to create a memorial for your pet. If you like to be creative, try writing, making a photo collage, or setting up a resting place for them inside or outside your home.

(Video) Coping with the Loss of a Pet

If you're not artistic, there are online services that make art from a photo of your pet. You can also find beautiful ways to preserve your remains (if you want to display them or use them in a memorable piece of jewelry).

I keep photos of Marilyn's adventures in my apartment and talk about her often. your adventureInstagram-Accountit is still live as a tribute to his journey.

I also had a large canvas of Marilyn made for her oncologist's office. Her doctor was very kind and he told me that he would share Marilyn's story with others; she was strangely soothing.

(Video) How To Deal With The Loss Of A Pet

Losing a pet is never easy, but it is possible to find peace and joy in the memories that live in your heart after the loss.

"If you've lost your [pet] and you're completely heartbroken, you know it's a sign of how mentally healthy you are," Geipert says. “You have the capacity for deep love; It's something good."

She recommends seeing a therapist if you feel like you can't process the pain of a loss.

"If you're really stuck in something you're feeling, therapy can help you release it."

you can also tryonline therapyo oneonline grief counselinggroup if it suits you better.


How do you cheer up someone who lost a pet? ›

5 Ways to Help When a Friend Loses a Pet
  1. Recognize their loss. Whether the person appears visibly sad, or is cheerfully going about a daily routine, always acknowledge the loss. ...
  2. Send something. Any connection to the departed pet will be welcomed by the owner. ...
  3. See what they need. ...
  4. Memorialize the pet. ...
  5. Keep your friend social.
21 Sept 2015

Why does losing a pet hurt so much? ›

Cats, dogs, horses and other cherished pets provide companionship, reduce loneliness and depression, and can ease anxiety. They support our emotional well-being and imbue our actions with meaning. This is why, in addition to emotional pain, we feel aimless and lost in the days and weeks after our pet dies.

How long do most people grieve a pet? ›

A small 2019 study of 82 people found that the length of intense grief experienced by bereaved pet owners varies —with 25 % taking between 3 months to a year, 50% between one year and 19 months, and 25 % between two and six years.

How long should you mourn a pet? ›

Acute grief symptoms after the death of a pet can last from one to three months and general symptoms of grief can continue, on average, for six months to a year This grieving period can vary significantly from person to person and can be much longer or shorter.

How traumatic is losing a pet? ›

However, the loss of that companion can be devastating and traumatic. Humans develop a lasting attachment with their pets, which breaks at the loss of the pet. Regardless of the manner of death, a pet owner may perceive the death as traumatic and experience distress or exhibit posttraumatic stress symptoms.

Can you get PTSD from the death of a pet? ›

Seventy-five responders reported the loss of a pet and filled out a battery of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I've often written about PTSD; it's defined as the recurring memories and heightened state of arousal that lingers for more than a month after a traumatic event.

Do you ever get over a pets death? ›

Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it's important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold. Feeling sad, shocked, or lonely is a normal reaction to the loss of a beloved pet.

How do you fix a broken heart after a dog dies? ›

If your dog has died and you're brokenhearted — it's OK. You've experienced a major loss, and it's natural to grieve. Allow yourself to experience the emotions. If you feel stuck, you can help yourself by finding ways to memorialize your pet, honor their memory, and express your emotions.

How stressful is the death of a pet? ›

The death of a pet can be a truly traumatic experience and create a large void in our hearts and lives—comparable to losing a close family member or friend. As humans, we project onto our beloved pets our thoughts, emotions, and ideas: We see ourselves in our animals.


1. Why losing a dog feels like losing a family member
2. Grieving Your Cat, Dog or Any Other Animal Family Member - Tips, Tools and My Story.
(Jackson Galaxy)
3. My Cat or Dog Just Died - How to Handle Passing of a Pet Right Now
(Danielle MacKinnon)
4. The Rainbow Bridge, Animals in Transition | Joan Ranquet | TEDxWilmingtonWomen
(TEDx Talks)
5. Coping With the Loss of a Fur Baby: Pet Grieving Support Group - The Local Show
(Kansas City PBS)
6. Why Pet Loss is a Heavy Grief
(Jo McRogers Grief Support That Works)
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