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Grieving the Loss of a Pet

  • Last updated on January 24, 2012

Pets are often considered as part of the family. The time spent with them may be greater than the time spent with our family members. They are a non-judgmental source of love and affection that become a significant and consistent part of our life. 

Losing a pet who you have such a strong bond with is devastating. You no longer have someone to nurture and care for. The grieving process is no different than losing a best friend or family member. Know that your grief is valid. Suppressing your feelings doesn’t help them to go away. The best thing you can do is to feel them, accept them, and eventually you will be able to let them go.

The Stages of Grief

Know that you’re not alone in this experience, and that your emotions are completely normal. Take your time to nurture yourself and go through the phases of grief, just as so many have before you, and so many are today. 

1. Shock & Denial

You’re unable to accept the situation. It doesn’t quite feel real. It almost feels like a dream, you’re going through the motions, and soon you’ll wake up and everything will be back to normal. 

2. Anger

You feel guilt and continuously blame yourself for what happened. You lash out at family members, friends, and the veterinarian- blaming them for what happened. 

3. Bargaining

You ask for a deal from god or the veterinarian. “I’ll do anything to have my pet back”

4. Depression

This often occurs as a reaction to accustoming to a change in lifestyle without the pet. The pet is missed and thought about constantly. You feel sad, hopeless, helpless, and drained. 

5. Acceptance

Acceptance finally comes once the change in lifestyle, brought upon by the loss of the pet, are stabilized.  

The extent of the mourning process differs for everyone. It depends on the age of the owner, the circumstances of the death, and the bond with the animal. Usually children recover quickly, while the elderly take the longest. Sometimes, experiencing the loss of a pet will finally enable the bereaved to mourn the loss of person whose death has not yet been accepted. 

Healing

Now that the mourning process is understood, the following tips can help to encourage healing. 

  • Allow yourself to grieve. Really feel the feelings instead of suppressing them
  • Memorialize your pet to pay tribute and reflect. This helps to accept the situation
  • Be good to yourself. Get a lot of sleep, good nutrition and exercise. Exercise creates endorphins which makes you feel happier
  • Surround yourself with support and the love of people who really understand
  • Accept these feelings of grief. Talk about them, sing, write, or draw to convey how you’re feeling. 
  • Do things you enjoy to help lift your spirits. 
  • Allow yourself to experience grievances you thought had passed. Grief tends to return when triggered by a holiday, smell or sound. Each time that it does its less painful and further apart.
  • Don’t be afraid or ashamed to get help from a councilor or support group. We all need to deal with grief in our own way and that is okay.

Know that one day soon you will feel better. The universal theory of impermanence tells us that nothing lasts forever. The present moment may be difficult, but it is an experience we need in order to grow. The sooner we can accept it and let it go, the sooner this pain and these feelings will pass. Sending lots of love and peace to you.