Grieving Pet Loss – thoughts and feelings

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You’ve lost a good friend. Whether the loss was sudden or anticipated, it is never easy.

Everybody grieves differently

There is no one way to grieve the loss of a dear pet.  There is no right way, and there’s no wrong way. Some people feel the loss of a beloved pet immediately and move on. Some people feel the loss for years. It is absolutely OK to feel the loss and to express it in whatever manner you wish.

Coping with the loss

Just as the intensity of the feeling of losing a pet is an individual experience, so is the manner in which people cope with the loss of a pet. There is no wrong way. For some people, the pet’s leash, food dish, toys, bed and water bowl will remain in their places for a long time. Some people remove those items immediately.  Some save collars or leashes as ways to remember the pet.

There are a number of things you can do to help you yourself and your family cope with the loss of a pet.  It helps to get those feelings of grief out.   Create a journal or poem about the life of your pet and your feelings. Have each member of the family write about special memories or events with your pet.  Add pictures.  Write a letter to your pet to let them know how much they meant to you and your family.  As time goes, you will treasure this journal.  For some, volunteering at their local Humane Society or shelter helps them through the grief. Just stroking a pet in need of love or taking a walk with them is a good stress reduction technique and a way to help you deal with those feelings of grief. For some folks, a photo of their beloved pet is a comforting reminder.

Some families set up a memorial for their pets. This can be done through ‘memorial bricks’ at the local Humane Society or in a special place in your yard or home.  You can keep a plaque of your pet’s paw.  We have Benji’s ashes with his collar and picture on a shelf. His picture makes us smile every time.

Some people feel the grief of the loss of a beloved pet at an extremely deep level. If this is you, reach out. Reach out to friends or a support group that specializes in coping with pet loss. There are many organizations you can reach out to.  There are many who have professional counselors working with the group. They can be of great help for you.

Not everybody will understand

Not everybody will understand how heavy your heart may be right now. There are those who will allow you to grieve as you wish. Some will be supportive. Many will empathize, having experienced a similar loss. And then there will be those who ‘don’t get it’. They may not necessarily come across as kind, sympathetic or understanding.  They may not intend to be ‘mean’, they just see their pets and the loss of a pet in a different light than you do.  That’s ok, too.  Just realize they are in a different place and choose to seek solace with other friends or in another way.

Helping children understand the loss

Children, especially younger children, are not likely to understand that a pet has died. There are parents who will simply replace one gold fish when another, hoping the child might not notice. But the loss of a pet, is a different matter. You can’t replace a dog or cat with another. This is one of those times when parents can teach their children valuable life lessons.

Children can experience a wide range of feelings with the loss of a pet. They may be angry at the parents or veterinarian for not saving their pet. They may be afraid that others they love will die and leave them as well. They may blame themselves for the pet’s death, depending on the circumstances.

Some parents will tell the child that the pet ran away. While this explains the pet’s immediate absence. It also sets the child up as they anticipate that the pet will return at some point. Children also expect significant effort will be made to find the ‘lost’ pet. This is not a path that would be suggested. When the reality is learned, children feel betrayed when they eventually learn the truth.

This is an opportunity to share the grief you’re feeling with your children. Let them know that it’s OK and natural to feel sad. Take some time to share your favorite stories about your pet as a family. It helps to celebrate your pet and let your children know that they will always have those great memories when ever they think about that special pet.

Seniors and pet loss

Sometimes, seniors can feel the loss of a pet more deeply.  The death reminds them of their own mortality.  They have likely experience an increase in the loss of family and friends.  Their pet may have been their only companion.  The loss may leave them more lonely.  Check in on your friends to see how they’re doing.  Help them grieve the loss of their pet.

Occasionally, seniors will consider immediately getting a new pet to ease the loneliness.   While it is certainly understandable, it is recommended that plans be made for the care of the pet, in case of the inability of their person to continue to care for them.  Puppies, kitten and young animals are energetic and fun, but take a great deal of time to train.  Older animals may be a little more even in their behavior but as they age may, as do we all, require more medical care and attention.  The shelters are full of pets who are there because of the loss of their person and the family does not wish to care for the pet.  It is a sad ending for all that can be avoided with planning and communication..

Other pets in your household

When you have other pets, remember that they may have lost a buddy too. They may whimper, lost interest in eating, be lethargic and generally not themselves.  They are grieving the loss as well.  If they weren’t close friends, they will still be impacted by your feelings and show distress.  Extra attention and love for your surviving pets should help get them through the loss.

It’s OK

However you feel and however you choose to grieve the loss of your beloved pet is the right way for you. It’s OK.  Be you.  Celebrate a wonderful spirit and life.  Grieve in what ever way and in what ever time suits your heart and your family.  And, someday, when the time is right, perhaps another furry friend will purr or like or wag their tales into your heart again.

16 thoughts on “Grieving Pet Loss – thoughts and feelings”

  1. Strahinja says:

    Well, I can agree with you. Not everybody will understand you and your connection with your pet. I was very sad when my first cat died. I was younger but still, I could not bare the thought not seeing that cat again. I always wondered how people sometimes don’t have enough in them to realize the suffering we are going through when we loose our pet.

    Did you ever lost your pet?

    1. admin says:

      We have lost a few very special cats over the years.  My first cat, Snowy, lived until I finished college.  I still treasure the memories.  O’Malley and Ollie we with us for years as well with my kids.  Ollie I raised from a 3 day old kitten.  There isn’t a day that I don’t miss him.  They all have a special place in my heart.  Thank you so much for sharing your story.  There is a memorial page in Benji’s Best if you’d care to share memories of your beloved cat. Thank you for taking time to drop a note and share your story.    Chrsitine

  2. Rodarrick says:

    Grieving over the loss of our pet can be as painful as grieving over our friends or beloved ones. Overtime, our pets will become our best friends and playmates. However, grieving them can really be dynamic as different people express different perception as presented here. I feel the best way is just what you have stated. Just grieve over them in the way it comes straight to one and that is just the right way.

    1. admin says:

      Absolutely.  Every pet and situation is unique.  Folks should grieve the loss in the way that feel most comfortable and appropriate for them.

  3. Henderson says:

    Losing a pet can be a very hard thing. I have had this grief myself in the past and i can very well tell that it is not a good one. Many times, people say how was i able to let go of the pain because he was with me for about 15 years. I had to let go. I had to give myself a break away from everything because i felt like i had lost a part of me. This is a good post and i fel like someone who has gone through the whole thing was relly speaking to me. Nice post.

    1. admin says:

      I’m glad you found it helpful.  Having lost very special pets in our family, while the grief subsides, you miss them every day.  I still do and it’s been several years since we lost Benji.  Thank you so much for taking time to drop a note.

  4. Wendy says:

    Losing a beloved pet is very difficult for most people. I think the most important thing is for people to realize it is okay to be sad. I think when the time comes and I lose one of my cats, I will probably take a day off of work. Hopefully, I won’t have to deal with it anytime soon. I just know I don’t want either of my cats to suffer.

    Last month, my sister in law’s dog passed away. She was really upset and all I could do was tell her that I was sorry for her loss. What do you think the best way to support someone grieving a pet loss?

    1. admin says:

      Losing a pet is never easy.  You responded appropriately.  If she wants to talk about the pet and share memories, that helps some people.  Your sister in law could find some benefit with this article in ways to grieve and remember a cherished pet.  There is also a memorial page, if she would care to share a story or two about her dog.  That might also help her as she processes her grief.

  5. Nuttanee says:

    My dog, Pang passed 2 years ago. It was hard in the beginning for me and I still do keep his water bowl and one of his most favorite toy. I still remember the way he used to take his toy (kermit the frog) everywhere he goes. Now, it is not that bad. I miss him from time too time, the grief comes in flashes of emotions for me. I just have to ride it and let go. I still do talk to my siblings about Pang. We all would laugh together about him as an important part of our childhood. 

    I have a new friend, Shiro. He is a 100% husky and 100% adorable. My good friend lost her dog last year as well and this year she has just adopted a dog from a shelter near by her place. She is very happy with it. 

    You are right no one grief the same. You just do you and do not care about other people on how you grief. 

    1. admin says:

      Pang sounds like a special guy.  I’m sure you still miss him.  It’s great that you and your siblings still tell stories about him.  There is a Memorial page here in Benji’s Best, if you’d care to share stories about Pang there.  I’m glad you have a new friend, Shiro.  Huskies are beautiful dogs!   You might share this site with your friend as well.  There may be something here that could be of benefit for her.   Thank you for taking time to drop a note and share your story.  I look forward to connecting with you again.  Please let us know if there are other things that would be of value for you and Shiro!

  6. bella says:

    You have opened my eyes to virtually everything new that I know that everyone else do not know about when it comes to grieving over a dead pet. I would never have considered that the loss of a pet could affect so many people as this and in truth, this is really awesome to see here. I noticed that after the death of shally, my dog. The rest of the dogs were unwilling to play and they were all just sleeping around for the first week after her loss. This is really a new perception that I have gotten here. Thanks to you for sharing this.

    1. admin says:

      I’m glad you found value in this article.  Most folks don’t think about it until they experience the loss of a pet.  It can really be a profound loss, even for other pets in the family.  If you’d care to share stories of your Shally, there’s a memorial page for you.  Thank you for taking time to drop in and share your thoughts.

  7. John says:

    Losing a pet can be very hard for everyone, the other pets, the owner and most especially, the kids. I have been in a similar situation before and I know how it feels to lose a pet. It was really hard to convince my sister though because we had the dog before she was born. It was her best friend and it was hard for her. She blamed everyone for it. Nice topic to talk about here.

    1. admin says:

      Losing a pet can be very hard, especially for kids and even more so when they have literally grown up with the pet.  I’m sure she came to understand the loss more as she got older.  Death is certainly a part of the great circle of life.  Perhaps this article can give you some ideas about how to help you celebrate and remember your dog’s life and memories with her to help resolve her feelings.  Christine

  8. Wilson Russell says:

    This post was very nice. It was very comforting and helpful. I would love to see some more wholesome content maybe about baby pets!?

    1. admin says:

      I’m glad this was helpful for you. Thank you for taking time to stop in. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

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