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The Grief of Pet Loss

Updated on November 22, 2010

An Often Overlooked Form of Grief

          It is fairly common for us to talk about the loss of a person and the grief associated with the end of human relationships. Whether the loss is through death, divorce, breakup, or simply an end to a friendship, there is an endless supply of information offering advice on how to cope. However, one area that is often overlooked, or brushed aside, is the feelings of losing a pet.


The Loss of a Special Friend

          Pets allow us, I often say, to experience one of the purest forms of unconditional love. And whether that pet is lost or stolen, placed in a new home, or dies, the ending of that relationship can be devastating and one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. According to psychologists, the grief suffered by the pet’s owners following a loss can be the same as that experienced after the loss of a person.

          In our busy lives these days, whenever we hear of someone losing an animal friend, our good intentions often lead us to words that try and minimize the loss. “It’s just an animal,” or “why not just go and find another one.” However, it is important to remember that animals offer love and acceptance that is unique and often not easily replaced.  


Tips for Coping with the Loss of a Pet

Allow Yourself Time To Grieve
Grieving is a natural process for your mind and body to help you heal from your loss. Allowing yourself to cry to express your loss will make you feel better faster. Talking with others or writing your thoughts and feelings on paper also helps people to express their losses and to heal.  Grieving is natural and very healthy.

Be Willing To Ask and Accept Help from Others
Help and support from others will decrease the pain that you are feeling.  People and animals have an amazing capacity to heal each other. So, accept their help, it will make you and them feel better.  Sometimes it is normal for other people in your household to feel numb after the loss of a pet, so they may not know to offer you help; nevertheless, ask them for their help because it will help them to reconnect with people. It will make you and them feel better.  Help other people when you have the strength to do so, it will make you feel better.

Set Up a Memorial to Honor Your Lost Pet
Memorials honor your pets and help you to remember them in a healthy way.  Many people use photographs or even dedicate a special tree in honor of their pet. Memorials can really help, so choose one that feels right for you and your pet.

Set Up a Special, personal Place for You to Heal
Create your own personal sanctuary for yourself while you heal. Choose a location that is quiet and comfortable so that you can reflect and grieve in a place where you feel safe. Use calming and healing items there such as candles, heirlooms and other items that will give peace and strength. Some people keep religious items close at hand. As you heal, you will eventually know when the time is right to return this space back to its regular purpose.

Trust Yourself that You Will Heal
Hope should never be lost.  Every single person has the capacity to heal. You will discover strengths in yourself that you never knew you had. The key is to take it one day at a time. Healing will take time and effort, but it always happens.

Assess Your Personal Grief Level
Think of an imaginary stress meter as a scale from 1 to 10.  Think of a score of 1 equaling no stress at all and a 10 equaling the greatest amount of stress that you could imagine.  Be honest about rating your stress level.  If your score is 1, 2, or 3, than you can probably handle the stress in your own way.  A score of 4, 5, or 6 means you would probably benefit from talking with a friend or family member who really cares about you.  If your score is 7, 8, 9, or 10 you are facing a crisis and should seek help from a counselor immediately. The sooner you ask for help, the sooner your stress level can begin to decrease with help from another.



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    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      JC, I love that you took the time to write this hub, because I have known so many people who have experienced this. I knew an older lady who had already lost so many people, including a husband. When she lost her little puppy, she grieved for months. Finally, after about a year, she allowed her heart to open up, and love again .. another little dog.

      For an older person, especially, it may be harder, because they may be retired, and have had more time to spend with the pet. And you are right ... it is like losing an important person in your life.

      This is a great hub. Very well-written. Take care!

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      This is a wonderful, loving and honestly written article about the real trauma of losing a companion animal to death, disappearance, or other means. You have described this loss perfectly and I love the suggestions you have shared about ways in which to handle the grieving process. It is apparent that you love your animal family very much. Otherwise, you would not have the depth of understanding you so kindly have displayed here. Thank you so much for caring this deeply, and for helping others who will, eventually, experience the loss of a beloved pet. I am going to "share you" with pintoandi; a fellow hubber who has lost her little dog; to this day, she is still very very sad and mourning this loss. Your friend, Kathy aka Lucky Cats. Definitely voted up, beautiful, awesome and useful; like on FB and shared!!!