6 Ways to Cope With the Loss of a Pet

The death of a pet feels like a thousand bee stings to the heart.  The threads of this pain form an imperfect knot of memories and momentos, grief and even guilt. But there are some simple strategies that can help us on this journey.

1. Keep the Conversation Going: For those who are inclined to believe in an afterlife, continuing to include departed pets in the special or familiar moments of our daily lives can significantly ease the ache of their absence.  Whether you interpret this as keeping your animal close to your heart or connecting to the soul of your departed animal, the notion that our relationship has transformed, rather than ended, can bring tremendous peace. In fact, many people now turn to animal communicators to assist them in this connection. Those in search of a reputable practitioner who can conduct sessions by phone might try Dawn Allen based in the United States or Oephebia (speaks French and English) based in the UK.

2. Create a Memorial: Many people find that building a special place that stands as a physical tribute to their pet can be comforting. Some suggestions include a memorial garden (which can be as simple as a few favorite plants), framed portraits, necklaces that contain the pet’s identification tag or even an online photo tribute.

3. Reflect on the Small Moments: With all the hardship this world brings to so many homeless animals, those of us who have had the privilege of caring for a pet have so much to be grateful for. Experts have found that exercising feelings of gratitude does indeed lift our emotions and give us greater strength to move through the grieving process.

4. Get Away: If being at home is simply too difficult, this might be the perfect time to take a trip to visit family or reconnect with friends.  Even if it’s just a couple hours at the movies, a change of scenery can help us reconnect with our ability to carry on.

5. Find a Support Group: The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement is just one of many online resources that provide guidance and chat rooms where you can talk with others who are going through loss.

6. Hold onto Familiar Items: For some people, keeping familiar items such as leashes, beds and bowls in their normal place is comforting. For others, it is easiest to collect those items and place them in storage. It’s not advisable to discard these items in the heat of the moment as you may later wish you had some physical momento of your pet.

Death changes a relationship but does not end it.

In the end, it’s best to remember that the depth of our sorrow is not the measure of our love for our pets. After all, our pets spend so much of their lives trying to please us and bring us joy.  Is there any doubt that their final wish for us would be for happiness and an understanding of the eternal nature of our connectedness?

Brought to you by the Harmony Fund international animal rescue charity.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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81 comments

Carolanne Powell
Carolanne Powell3 years ago

Lost our beautiful 17yr old Burmese Diva today. (Profile pic). She has finally crossed that Rainbow Bridge to be with her favourite son Panther. She went in her sleep after suffering kidney disease for sometime. R.I.P. my beautiful darling. Great coping methods stated in this article...Thankyou.

Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright3 years ago

I agree with Eveline. Consider bringing another pet into your home {please adopt from a rescue or shelter......}. They won't take the place of your beloved pet but they will give you unconditional love and there's nothing better than sweet puppy breath or the purr of a kitty to help your heart heal.

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Sheri D.
Sheri D.3 years ago

Thanks for the suggestions. It is so difficult to cope with the loss of a beloved pet.

Jamie B.
Jamie B.3 years ago

I ended up in counselling after the death of my feline soulmate. Thankfully, the counselor understood that losing a pet can be every much as traumatic as losing a spouse or a child. Allow yourself time to grieve, and, yes, cry, if you need too. There is no shame in grief.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

Thanks for posting!

Desiree Ponton
Desiree P.3 years ago

What a nice article. Rescuing a new pet can be healing as well. Thanks.

Lynne B.
Lynne Buckley3 years ago

I had one dog die in February and the suggestions above do help. We were lucky in having two more dogs to hold and grieve with.

Eveline M.
Eveline M.3 years ago

Maybe adopt another pet from a shelter and give it a good life...

Diane Lindberg
Diane L.3 years ago

Thank you Ginger for the beautiful poem by Caro Schubet-James I love it but it made me cry
xoxox