Grief Counseling

Dealing with Pet Loss

Those of us who consider a pet a member of the family will sooner or later experience the pain of loss, and it can be as devastating as the loss of any loved one.

Knowing that you’re not alone in your grief is important, as is realizing that the loss of a pet is a unique experience for each individual. Factors that play into how the loss is handled include whether the death was sudden or followed a prolonged illness, whether the pet owner had to elect euthanasia, whether it was the first time the person experienced losing a pet, and the person’s living situation.

Here are some tips to help you cope:

  • Mark the pet’s passing with some sort of ritual. Rituals such as memorial services and burial ceremonies are an accepted part of human loss, and can be just as healing after losing a pet. Even something as simple as lighting a candle in your pet’s memory can help.
  • Find supportive family and friends.
  • Find a pet-loss hotline or support group. Many veterinary schools offer free pet-loss hotlines staffed with trained volunteers who will listen and offer compassionate support.
  • Allow yourself time to grieve. While it’s not healthy to get stuck in your grief, pretending that nothing is wrong is equally unhealthy.
  • Books to comfort readers young and old who have lost a pet: Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven.

“The old adage that time heals all wounds applies to pet loss as well. As you work through your grief, you’ll find that there will come a day when you’ll wake up in the morning and your first thought will not be about how much you miss your pet, but about a happy memory of the time you spent together”.

by Ingrid King, a member of the Pet Connection staff and the author of “Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher.”