Friday, April 4, 2014

Grief and the Loss of Your Pet

German Shepherd puppy in a box.
   One of the most exciting times in a pet parent’s life is the day we bring home our new best friend. From the day they come into our lives, we love, feed, train, cuddle, and kiss them. They know our deepest secrets and give us unconditional love. We carry their pictures, post them Facebook, and talk about them like any proud parent. Our pets are happier than anyone else when we come home at the end of the day. Dogs and cats don’t question us, they never stay angry, and trust us 100%. They are very nearly perfect. 
   Their only fault is a shorter lifespan than we are given. I have grieved the loss of many wonderful cats and dogs. It never gets easier and I’ve never truly prepared myself to say “good-bye.”
Solid black Manx cat
The Pet Grieving Process
   The normal grief process usually begins with anger. Those feelings may be directed at your veterinarian, other family members, yourself, or your beloved pet. The other feeling you have to deal with is the guilt. Was there something you could have done to achieve a different outcome? Then, you dwell on the times you may have lost patience with your pet or didn’t throw that ball one more time. Once these initial feelings subside, the true feelings of sadness emerge. The important thing to remember is all of these feelings are the normal process in achieving your final goal of acceptance. It is also important to know that you don’t have to grieve alone. Share your feelings with the rest of your family. There are pet bereavement counseling services, pet-loss support hotlines, local or online Internet groups, books, videos, and magazine articles. You may want to plan a memorial service for your pet. Writing about your feelings, memories, and the things you want to tell your dog or cat can be very therapeutic.
Child with two adult German Shepherds
   If there is a child in your family, it is extremely important to listen to their feelings. The loss of a pet is sometimes the first experience they have dealing with death. The way you handle this grief with a child will affect how they handle such losses in the future. You may find them becoming fearful of losing other loved ones in their lives. Give them the support and reassurance they need and don’t be afraid to let them know that you are also grieving.
   There is another family member who must not be forgotten during this time. If you have more than one pet, the ones left behind may also experience grief. The surviving pet might whimper, search for their friend, and refuse to eat, or become lethargic. This is the way animals express their sadness at the loss of their companion and is not much different from humans. Spend more time with the grieving pet and you’ll see a positive impact on both of you. Pets pick up on our emotions so a little extra love and snuggling will go a long way towards healing both of your hearts.
M. K. Clinton with German Shepherd dog
   A common sentiment after the death of your pet is “I will never get another dog/cat.  It’s just too painful to lose them.” Going out to get a new pet is not advisable until you’ve come to terms with your recent loss. It may be as short as a month to more than a year before you’re ready to welcome a new pet into your life. Everyone has his or her own timeline for the grieving process. 
   The only way to get through life without the pain of a pet’s death is never to know the love of one in the first place. I think that would be a sad and lonely way to protect your heart. You will always carry the love of a lost pet with you. They leave huge paw prints on our hearts. There is one thing that I am certain of though; your pet wanted nothing more than to make you happy. Don’t lose sight of the fact that your dog or cat wouldn’t want you to grieve too long.


  1. wow. What a heavy post! Your right though, it needs to be said. Dealing with the loss of a pet is just horrid. As is dealing with the loss of any family member. I not had to deal with that since I have had children, so when/if that day comes, if they are still young, it will be hard....I can only imagine. Very informative post.
    On a brighter note, Happy Pet Parade! :)

    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  2. Sad post, but good. Mom doesn't like to think about it. She is still teary eyed about Trine who passed ten years ago. I know when any of us pass, Mom will be a wreck but the ones left behind will help her get through it.

  3. Wonderful post. It is important to let yourself grieve and go through all those emotions. So sorry to hear you had such a recent loss. It took me a few years to want to get another dog because I was so attached to my last one and just couldn't imagine loving another as much. And thank you for pointing out the other pets in the home will be grieving as well. Will be sharing. Oh and happy Pet Parading! ~Rascal and Rocco

  4. Powerful post, thanks for sharing.
    It is very important to know how to say it, the post made me tear up!!!
    ❀ Siamese Smothers and Tuxie Tickles❀ from Mikko and Jax at Happiness is Siamese!

  5. We've been through it four times as adults, and both a few times as children. It's different every time, and every time, it's opened our home up to new experiences and loves, too.

  6. It's hard to say good-bye ... It makes you value more of time and life. Golden Thanks for sharing. Golden Woofs

  7. I have loved and lost many dogs over my lifetime as I've generally had more than one dog at a time. Saying goodbye is always the worst time in our lives together but also the most loving thing you can do. I've only had one dog pass naturally. But I would never deprive another dog of a good home because I know it will eventually break my heart. Pets give so much joy they are well worth the inevitable grief.

  8. Thank you for this can be a great help to anyone going through this. It is the sad thing about having pets, that their lives are too short, but it is definitely worth it.
    For me, having multiple pets has really made it easier with our last two losses. The pain of loss is still the same, but having another pet or pets to love and snuggle with is a great comfort.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  9. We've lost our share here and it is never easy. :( But we are always glad for the time we had with them.

  10. What a very informative post, thanks for having the courage to write it!

  11. It doesn't matter how many times one has faced the passing of one, or more,four legged friends, it never gets easier. Each new passing caused intense grief that only time can heal.

  12. Beautifully written and so true.

  13. That was a very lovely well said post, I'm glad you did it. The loss of a beloved pet is so very hard especially for me who doesn't have children and these animals are my life. I'm still grieving over the loss of Norman and I tell you my favorite blog post to make is my Saturday's Nothing But Norman. I get to relive his life and that keeps me going and I smile at all he was to me. Thank you!

  14. This is so very beautifully written. Still not a day goes by that I don't think of Tara a hundred times. She was the 4th cat I had lost and it never gets easier, I think it gets harder. After past losses I've waited over a year to adopt a new pet, but after Tara I only waited 6 weeks before adopting Truffles. In a way I felt it was too soon, but Tara was such a powerful force that I felt her loss more acutely than ever. I just know she would have wanted me to rescue another feisty tortie!


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