Grieving the Loss of a Pet

No longer by my side but forever in my heart

Together we look at the journey of grieving the loss of a pet.

Grief and loss can be experienced during a divorce or separation, navigating life transitions and when a loved one or beloved pet passes away.

Research shows us that grieving the death of our companion animals can be just as painful, if not more than grieving the loss of a family member or friend.

The Animal Welfare League explain: Unfortunately, the simple truth is that our furry companions will not survive for as long as most of us, even though we wish and hope that they could.

While grieving is a very personalised experience that can be influenced by culture or social groups. It’s fair to establish that the process in which you might experience the grief and pain of losing a pet might look completely different from a family member living in the same house. Losing a pet is hard for anyone, and it may be an especially difficult notion for a young child to process.

Grief is an expression of the love or bond we have felt. It is important to take the time to care for ourselves and our loved ones during an emotional and painful time as we learn to reintegrate into our life. Be mindful that the process takes place within our own timeframe.

Phycology Today offers helpful steps one can take to provide some nurture during a time of grief:

  1. Set aside the time to grieve in your own way and release your emotions.

Life is busy, and there are always things that we need to tend to. It takes time to grieve! Create a space to experience emotions by giving ourselves the time to feel at regular intervals along the grief journey. If we find ourselves stuffing our emotions, it can cause more pain down the track.

2. Reflect upon the life shared between yourself and your beloved pet.

Active reflection can be hard, even without experience in the pain of grief. We can reflect through writing, storytelling, or whatever form of expression brings a sense of comfort. When taking the time to purposely reflect, the aim is to try and focus on what positive memories were shared, allowing our body to experience a different emotion other than pain, for example, gratitude. While being mindful that this method is not used to avoid pain; instead, we must experience both within the grief process.

  1. Make sure you continue to meet your basic needs.

A frequent complaint in the immediate phase of grief is a loss of appetite. Commonly sleep can be disturbed as our mind can be rapidly attempting to process the experience. Guilt may also play a role in the process. We need to remember to be kind to ourselves during the process filling ourselves with nutritious foods. We can aim to maintain a sleep schedule, give ourselves some downtime, and practice self-care.

  1. Honouring the memory and love of your pet.

Sometimes, we don’t get to say “goodbye” before the passing of our pets. Not having a form of closure in this process can leave some feelings undone. Honouring the memory of a beloved pet can be a good way of establishing some form of closure. A few ideas might be writing a letter, having a funeral and service, create a shadow box with the dog or cat’s tag and collar and the imprint of their paw.

  1. Don’t hesitate to seek support from understanding friends or relatives.

Although grief is a highly individualistic experience, we grieve within communities. It’s essential to identify when you need support during your grief process and not walk it alone. Support can look like talking to a friend or seeking support from a helping professional to process the pain. Another option may be online communities through social media and forums, which allows a safe space to express your grief, seek peer support, and share your beloved pet’s memory.

This Blog is dedicated to Miss Pippa, who brought so much joy to our lives and, through her passing experienced grief on a different kind of level. If you are grieving a pet, I am sorry for your loss.

Recommended Resource: Episode – Grief & Loss