Coping with the Loss of Your Pet

Every relationship between a person and his or her pet is unique. This relationship has provided you with companionship, acceptance, emotional support and unconditional love. Because our beloved pets are considered members of the family, experiencing the loss of a pet can be just as hard to cope with as the loss of a close human friend or relative. Therefore, it is natural to feel overwhelmed by the intense emotions you experience.

Because of this special bond between humans and animals, it is also natural to grieve when your pet dies. Understanding how you grieve will help you survive the loss and maintain your ability to continue experiencing meaningful relationships in your life. Children especially may need encouragement in order to express their feelings and work through their grief.

Usually the process begins with denial, because the loss seems too great to bear; we feel that never seeing our pet again cannot possibly be true. Anger directed at anyone involved with your pet, or feelings of guilt, may follow. Whatever your response, you may worry that it is inappropriate. After you pass through this stage of anger, and possibly guilt as well, it is natural to feel depressed and lonely for a period of time. As you establish new routines and habits and you find yourself enjoying thoughts, stories, and photos of your pet, you begin to accept the reality of your loss.

These are the widely recognized stages of grief through which many people will pass. The grief process can last days or even years, depending on the individual. Stages may last for a long or short period of time. Some stages may be experienced repeatedly and some may overlap each other. It is important to realize that grieving is not a sign of weakness, nor is seeking help with the process. Because the grieving process is an intense emotional time, it is important to get whatever help you need from family, friends, a professional counselor, or a support group.