Coping After You’ve Lost a Pet

Our pets fill our hearts with love. They wait for us to return when we’re away and snuggle extra close when we’re feeling down. And losing a pet can leave a huge hole in our hearts, homes, and families. And while the people around us offer their condolences, the pain can feel immeasurable. So, how can you begin to cope after the loss of your pet and start to work toward closure? 

While every pet parent grieves differently and each pet and situation is unique, we hope our tips can help you cope while celebrating the life and memories of your pet.

Understanding the Hurt and Pain of Losing a Best Friend

 We bond with our pets and share a connection that only a pet parent can understand. Losing a dog, cat, hamster, rabbit, snake, or any other is like losing a family member. There’s that unbearable silence when you wake and the sobering absence when you get home. Our pets give us purpose, direction, and structure our lives. Losing a pet completely changes your life. It’s normal to feel the pain, anger, and sadness that accompanies this difficult time. You may also feel very alone, in shock, or in denial.

One thing is for sure: grieving a pet is normal but never easy. And there is no “normal reaction,” but there are some things that many people find helpful in the coping process.

Dealing with the Loss of Your Beloved Pet

Create a memorial and invite loved ones.

If you had a special spot in your yard, dedicate it to the memory of your pet. From a birdbath to a sapling, choose something beautiful where you can celebrate your pet’s life and meditate on the joy she brought into your life.

Invite friends, family, and loved ones that knew your pet to a memorial service. Allow others to share their stories of how amazing your pet was. Express your feelings and honor your pet’s life in a way that feels right to you.

If you don’t have the right outdoor spot, create a memory box with your pet’s collar, tag, photos, paw prints, or written memories.

Talk About How You Feel

Share your feelings with people that care about you. If you feel like you’d be able to express yourself better with a professional, consider making that appointment.

Don’t lose touch with your friends. If you went to the dog park, reach out to some of your friends to take a walk there or invite them over for tea or coffee to share in memories of your pet.

Don't Rush or Ignore the Grieving Process

Grieving takes time. How much? Everyone’s timeline is a little different. Let the process to unfold naturally. If you rush the process, you may struggle more by cycling back into profound surprise, anger, and denial. And ignoring the grieving process can lengthen the time it takes to heal and create an unhealthy disposition.

Take Care of Yourself

The range of emotions that come along with the loss of a pet can take a lot out of you. Check in with yourself and a trusted friend to be sure you’re eating properly, sleeping enough, and keeping up with your responsibilities.

Do your best to stick to your schedule and take care of your mental and physical well-being  with meditation, yoga, exercise, or hikes.

Talk Gently but Honestly with Your Children

Some parents are afraid to tell their kids what happened to their pet. You’ve probably heard the stories of the farm or people telling their kids the cat ‘ran away.’ While their hearts are in the right place, this can confuse kids and lead to distrust.

If you need assistance talking to your children, there are some excellent books that can help. Take a look into these:

The Rainbow Bridge: A Visit to Pet Paradise by Adrian Raeside

Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant

Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant

My Pet Memory Book by S. Wallace

I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm

Our Hearts Are with You as Your Work Through the Process

We understand the loss and are here to provide additional resources, such as those found on our website:

Pet Loss and Grief

Find support groups and good information.

Help on explaining pet loss to children.

We understand this is a difficult journey, and as avid pet lovers, empathize with the impact this loss has on your life. You are part of our family at Cedar Pet Clinic, and we want you to know we care about you and your pet. Losing your best friend, your beloved pet, and that unique companion that made your life whole disrupts reality and never feels fair, but we’re here with understanding and compassion.


Image credit: EKH-Pictures | iStock | Getty Images Plus


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