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Coping with the Loss of a Pet: How to Help a Grieving Pet Parent

June 15th, 2023

For many devoted pet parents, losing a beloved pet is as intensely devastating as losing a close friend or family member. Yet while they may feel overwhelmed by loss and sadness after the death of a pet, grieving owners are often faced with “just a dog” or “just a cat” societal expectations to hide their grief and carry on.

It’s not that easy.

Pets grow into beloved companions who play a critical role in bringing joy into our lives, adding structure to our daily routines, helping us overcome setbacks and challenges, and even providing a sense of purpose. But unlike with human loss, when a pet dies, there’s no funeral home filled with comforting hugs and well-wishers. No tear-filled speeches, slideshows set to music or a cascade of casseroles, either.

Losing a pet is often exceptionally difficult because the grieving process can be so lonely. They loved you unconditionally, and you loved them with your whole heart. Whether you’ve lost a beloved furry companion of your own or know someone who has, here are 6 tips to help navigate the coping process after losing a pet.

  1. Give Yourself Time to Grieve

    Feeling sad, shocked or angry is part of the normal grieving process. These stages of grief can take months, or sometimes years, to work through. There’s no right way to grieve, but bottling up your feelings will only make the process worse in the long-run. Give yourself permission to cry, to talk to others about your grief, and write about your feelings.

  2. Don’t Blame Yourself

    The end of a pet’s life is often racked with difficult choices. Pet parents who love them most must often consider factors like quality of life, medical expenses, levels of care and much more. Once a pet is gone, it’s easy to second-guess these decisions. Don’t. Have faith that you made the best possible decisions you could and that your pet, who you loved unconditionally, is now at peace.

  3. Take Time for You

    Losing a pet is stressful, and can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Be gentle on yourself and make healthy choices. Eat well, exercise and get plenty of rest. Even when it’s tempting to stay under the covers, making one healthy choice after another will help release endorphins and boost your mood.

  4. Create a Memorial

    Honoring your pet in special way can play a critical role in the grieving process. If they loved running in the backyard or climbing a favorite tree, consider planting a flower that will bloom year after year, or add an element to your landscape that will be a permanent reminder of how much they will always be loved. You can also designate a special place in your home to showcase a favorite framed photo and treasured mementos that remind you of your lost pet.

  5. Set Up New Routines

    Unlike the loss of a friend or family member who doesn’t share the same household, losing a pet can profoundly impact your day-to-day routine. Morning and evening neighborhood walks, Sunday outings to dog beach, even trips to the pet store or a groomer’s can suddenly be desperately missed. It’s important to create new routines to help ease the pain. Change up your walking route, volunteer, or sign up for a class to learn something new. You can even honor your pet by volunteering to help other animals. It’s ok to still think about your pet, just be sure to put the focus on you.

  6. Mark Milestone Anniversaries

    The first year of birthdays, holidays and adoption days without your pet can be hard. Take steps to remember them with love and joy. Visit their favorite place to run and play, display a favorite photo and make them a part of holiday celebrations by hanging their own ornament or by donating Christmas toys to a local animal shelter. Even though they may no longer be with you, their legacy will always live on.

Losing a pet is never easy. But with time, patience and self-care, the feelings of loss will diminish as cherished memories grow stronger. If you or someone you know continues to struggle, seeking out a pet loss support group or a professional grief counselor is always recommended.

Sidebar:

Thoughtful Gifts for a Grieving Pet Parent

Losing a pet is never easy. But over time, these thoughtful gifts can help someone who is grieving replace some of the pain with beautiful memories.

Engraved Garden Stone. As they admire their garden on a sunny day or walk along a favorite path, they’ll see their beloved’s pet name and be reminded of their love.

Personalized Memorial Bench. Place a custom bench beneath a tree, in a garden or overlooking a grassy field to create an ideal spot for healing and fond memories.

Custom Wind Chimes. Every time the wind blows and a melody plays, they’ll feel their cherished and very-missed pet smiling down on them.

Keepsake Memorial Box. Create a custom box with a pet’s name and even a photo to preserve special mementos, like their collar, ID tags or favorite toy.

Custom Pet Portrait. Using a favorite photo, commemorate a birthday or 1-year anniversary since their passing with a one-of-a-kind portrait that captures their unforgettable spirit.

Holiday Memorial Ornament. Make a pet no longer here a beloved part of every holiday celebration. Create a keepsake Christmas ornament that celebrates their memory and is placed on the best spot on the tree.

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