When a pet dies, it can be a significant loss to those who consider their pet an important of the family. It’s normal to grieve in the same way one would for a family member. Animals provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support, and unconditional love. If you understand and accept this bond between humans and animals, you’ve already taken the first step toward coping with pet loss: knowing that it is okay to grieve when your pet dies.
Everyone grieves in their own way, and grief is natural and normal. Some show it openly, while others grieve privately – there is no wrong way. Men and women even grieve differently. While women often need to talk and cry, men often prefer to stay busy and feel angry instead of sad.
We hope this information below will help you remember your beloved pet, learn from the loss, and learn to love again.
Coping with grief
While grief is a personal experience, you need not face your loss alone. Many forms of support are available, including pet-bereavement counseling services, pet-loss support hotlines, local or online pet-bereavement groups, books, videos, and magazine articles. The Humane Society offers some suggestions to help cope with your grief and that of your family.
Here are a few suggestions to help you cope:
- Acknowledge your grief and give yourself permission to express it.
- Don’t hesitate to reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear. Pet Partners offers a list of pet-loss hotlines for those grieving over the death of a pet.
- Write about your feelings, either in a journal or a poem, essay, or short story.
- Call your local humane society to see whether it offers a pet-loss support group or can refer you to one.
- Prepare a memorial for your pet.
Signs of Normal Grief
Physical: crying, shock, nausea, headache, stomach ache, shortness of breath, fatigue, exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, tightness in chest
Mental: denial, confusion, preoccupation with the loss, feeling overwhelmed, disturbing dreams and mental images, comforting dreams or visitations
Emotional: sadness, anger, anxiety, panic, despair, loneliness, depression, guilt, relief, irritability, need to talk and reminisce over and over again
Social: loss of interest in normal activities, desire to be alone or an intense need to be around others, inability to work, the impulse to move, a need to stay busy
Spiritual: anger at God or a renewed belief in a Higher Power, search for deeper meaning in life, personal growth or maturation of character, paranormal visions and dreams, the desire to memorialize
Caring for Other Pets
Pets experience loss in similar ways as humans do, so it’s important to acknowledge their grief and care for them with extra loving support. Try to give surviving pets lots of extra love and attention, and try to maintain a normal routine.
Surviving pets may whimper, refuse to eat or drink, and show signs of lethargy, especially if they had a close bond with the deceased pet. If your remaining pets continue to act out of sorts, contact your veterinarian to ensure there isn’t a medical issue.