Coping with grief

If you are reading this, you are likely to have experienced the loss of, or thinking about a time when you will no longer have your beloved pet with you.  

If it is the first time you have experienced this loss, or even if you have been through it before, it is the part of pet ownership that we all dread. However, with support and understanding we hope to help you through the grieving process with the information in this website. Grief affects us all personally and in different ways, but there are common themes. Note that you may experience grief no matter the size of your pet: from the smallest hamster or fish to the biggest of dogs, exotic pets to every-day moggies. Every pet is special to its owner. 

The relationship that we have with our faithful friends is one that is sometimes not understood by people if they do not have pets themselves. None-the-less, the feelings of grief and loss we experience are very real and should not be belittled or brushed under the carpet; instead they should be accepted as a natural response to loss. If you are finding it difficult to explain to someone how you are feeling, or they do not understand what you are going through, you can direct them to this site to read more about how to help you.

Common feelings

It is important to understand that there is no order or time-line to feelings of loss. Common feelings include: 

  • Anger - this can be towards another person, yourself or maybe your vet.
  • Guilt – you may start replaying events and believing that if you’d done something differently your pet would still be with you
  • Shock – maybe your pet loss was sudden and unexpected and the result of an accident meaning you had no chance to say good-bye
  • Denial – if you still have your pet with you but you have been advised it is time to say good-bye, you may be searching for other options so that you don’t have to deal with the decision.
  • Depression – the loss of a pet brings feelings of overwhelming sadness in the following days, but when this is prolonged and impacts on your day to day life, then you should seek help.

Physical Responses

You may also have physical responses to grief; this can range from an inability to sleep, loss of appetite or comfort eating, to behavioural responses such as not being able to move your pets’ belongings. In the latter instance, if you do not want to put away or clear your pet’s belongings, don’t feel that you have to. Many people will want to keep them in sight for some time, or even forever.  Do what feels right for you. 

When your choice of pet has necessitated a routine in your life, such as taking dogs for walks, play-time with your cat or checking on rabbits or horses; this break in your routine can be difficult for you too.

Getting Support

With support from your friends and family or support groups, you should be encouraged to talk about your pet and not “bottle things up”. If there is no-one you can speak to who understands and can offer support, you may wish to speak to pet owners in a pet loss forum, where everyone will be experiencing similar feeling to yourself, or have in the past. The Blue Cross charity also runs a pet bereavement support service and a helpline you can call.