Coping with the Loss of a Pet

Coping with the loss of a pet is never easy.

Pets are truly members of our family, and their passing can be heartbreaking in many ways. No matter how long your beloved animal companion was in your life, the mutual love, trust, and bond that you share is immutable. And losing that, coupled with losing the mere presence of your pet in your home, is incredibly hard and should never be undervalued.

Unfortunately, many people do not understand how deep the ties run between a pet and their human, and may not fully appreciate the extent of your grief. However you should never question whether your grief is valid. Give yourself permission to mourn, and consider trying one or more of the coping tips below as you work through the grieving process and make peace with your pet’s passing.

Ways to Cope with the Loss of Pets

When it comes to how to deal with a pet loss, there is no magic pill or secret tip for moving through grief and coming out on the other side. Instead, coping with the loss of a pet dog, cat, or other animal is an active process that takes time, and that may not follow a clear and direct trajectory. As you work through it, keep these coping tips in mind and remember that it’s okay to grieve however you need to.

Take Care of Yourself

Make your mental, emotional, and physical health a priority. It’s easy to get lost in your head and put your own needs on the backburner, but the better you care for yourself during this time, the sooner you can start to process what’s happened.

Keep Busy

You don’t need to overload your schedule, but do try to plan activities that will keep you distracted and on a routine. Even if it’s just sitting down to your favorite feel-good movie, anything you can do to redirect your focus is worth your time.

Talk to a Supportive Friend

Don’t keep your feelings inside. Reach out to a friend or loved one who understands the quality of the relationship you had with your pet and who will let you talk through how you’re feeling openly and without judgment.

Write It Out

Grab a pen and paper (or sit at your keyboard) and get your feelings down onto the page. Try stream of consciousness writing, which is when you simply write what comes to mind without editing it down or worrying about grammar and spelling. This will let you simply identify and address your thoughts, and is a productive way to channel your emotions and possibly find some clarity.

Practice Self-Care

Make sure you eat well, sleep well, and stay active during this time. And engage in other forms of self-care as needed, whether that’s a massage, a weekend away, or just a slice of pie from your favorite bakery.

Honor Your Pet

You may find it helpful to do something to honor and commemorate your pet. An example would be making a donation to a pet rescue organization or, when you’re ready, volunteering at a shelter. Other ways to commemorate your pet include planting a tree or bed of flowers for them, having jewelry made with their name on it, or hanging their picture in their favorite spot in the house.

If your goal is to figure out how to stop grieving over a pet entirely, it’s worth noting that acceptance of your pet’s loss will take time and cannot be rushed. It’s normal to feel how you’re feeling, and while it may be painful, it’s a testament to how much your animal companion meant to you. Things will be okay in the long run—just accept your feelings as they happen, and practice gratitude for the time that you got to share with your pet. There are many happy occasions ahead too, and eventually you’ll be ready to let them into your life.