How To Cope With Pet Loss

How To Cope With Pet Loss


dog in owners arms

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – Winnie the Pooh

Our pets are more to us than, well, “just” pets. They are loyal companions, joyful playmates, and reliable confidantes. They are members of our families who leave permanent marks on our hearts. But with all the love and snuggles inevitably comes the hardest part of pet ownership – loss.

Losing a pet is painful. There’s no way around it. Everyone who’s been through it knows what it’s like to have an animal shaped hole in their heart for the pets who’ve gone before them. And while there’s no way to circumvent the grief and sadness that comes from the death of an animal, there are some things you can do to help get yourself to the other side.

Acknowledge your loss

Before you can move forward, you need to acknowledge the loss you have suffered. Give yourself time to sit with your grief and try to absorb and comes to terms with what has happened. It’s important to know that there is no timeline, no “correct way,” to handle saying goodbye to a furry family member. The process looks different for everyone. Whatever it looks like for you, be patient, kind, and gentle with yourself.

Talk it out

For many, talking about their fallen four-legged loved one is an important part of the healing process. Whether this means confiding in a family member or close friend, reaching out to a support group, or even writing it out in a journal, talking about, saying the name of, and remembering your sweet pet can help you work through feelings, and ease some of the pain.


cat laying on owner lap

Find closure, ceremonially

While this may not be for everyone, many pet owners find comfort in saying goodbye through some sort of ceremonial practice. This can be as simple as lighting a candle and silently sending good thoughts to your deceased pet, or as elaborate as a full-blown memorial service. Regardless of the structure, a ceremony can be helpful in closing this chapter on you and your pet’s relationship and transitioning to one where they live in your heart, rather than by your side.

Memorialize their life

It may be comforting to find some way to memorialize your dear furry friend. This will look different for everyone but could include planting a tree in your pet’s honor, painting a picture of them, donating in their name, creating a scrapbook of your time together, or reserving a special place in your home to dedicate to their memory. This gives you and the others grieving your pet a concrete place to feel connected to them and their legacy.

Pay it forward

No matter the species, breed, or temperament, our pets all have one thing in common – they make our lives better. Sometimes, the best way to remember and honor them is to take a page out of their book. Reach out and help others. Volunteer at an animal shelter or senior center. Help a neighbor in need. Reach out to friends who are coping with their own losses. Brighten someone’s day, and as you do, remember how your cherished pet brightened yours. Volunteering and helping others gives you a place to channel anxious energy, occupies your mind, and helps you form new connections, all while improving the life of another. If our departed pets could tell us what they wished for us, we have to imagine this would be part of it.

Losing a pet is never easy. When they cross the rainbow bridge, we are left to navigate through grief, loss, and sadness. While the pain will never truly go away, eventually you will be able to look back on your lives together, appreciate the joy and love, and know that your memories will keep them forever alive in your heart.

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