Seven Ways to Cope with Pet Loss

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A man comforts a woman who has lost her pet.

By: Nathan Summerlin
Co-founder of
For Pets Best Insurance

Few experiences challenge us like the loss of a pet. We don’t have traditions and ceremonies that help us to grieve pet loss, as when we lose a person, so we often go through the experience with intense feelings of isolation. In some cases, we even bear the burden of deciding the time of our pet’s death. With no way for them to speak for themselves, we sometimes have to decide when to put a suffering pet to rest. Nothing can take away the pain of bereavement, but here are some suggestions for easing the difficult process.

1.Should you get another pet right away?

Bereaved animal lovers often want to get another pet right away, but this usually isn’t the best idea. Psychologist Camille Greenwald says any major loss requires the same grief process, “With any loss, you’re not going to replace the person, pet, or situation you lost. You may get to a point where you can open your heart to embrace another pet, but the idea that you’re going to run out and get another usually doesn’t work. I usually tell people it’s a good idea to wait several months or a year — let yourself go through some of the sadness and heartache first.”

2. Recognize the significance

Losing an animal companion is a major life event, but our culture often doesn’t acknowledge the validity of pet relationships. You may encounter a lack of sympathy — sometimes even ridicule — from others who don’t ascribe the same importance to the human-animal bond. People say things like, “It’s just a dog.” Losing a pet can be as traumatic as losing a person. You may even be surprised by how upset you are. Acknowledge the change in your life and accept your feelings about it.

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3. Create a memorial

Throughout human history, we have created memorials to help us through the deaths of loved ones. You may find great comfort in creating one for your pet. Fill a corner shelf with pictures and a favorite toy, or volunteer at your local animal shelter in memory of your pet. A memorial can take many forms — the important thing is that it’s meaningful to you. At, you can post an obituary-like memorial for your pet, and visitors to the memorial can make donations to animal-related causes in your pet’s memory. Your pet’s life is commemorated by the help given to animals in need.

4. Read
A number of books have been written specifically to help with the loss of a pet. I’ve compiled a list of highly recommended books at Amazon.

5. Resolve your doubts
Sometimes the most caring and responsible people struggle with feelings of guilt for decisions they made at the end of an animal’s life. Don’t let doubts like these make your bereavement any harder than it already is. Talk to your vet or a therapist to reassure yourself that you made the right decisions, even when it was hard.

6. Find support
Ask your vet or local Humane Society about local support groups. Visit online forums where you can draw strength from others who are further along in the grieving process than you are.

7. Find a professional
If you don’t find the help you need in public forums, or if you prefer to talk to someone in private, you might want to find a professional therapist to talk to. You don’t necessarily need someone who specializes in pet loss, but Dr. Greenwald suggests, “As when seeking any therapist, you need to do a little interviewing — see if they acknowledge what you’re going through.” Make sure the therapist doesn’t dismiss pet loss as something insignificant.

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Take some consolation in the idea that your grief is a result of the love you carry for your pet. Over time, your grief will soften, and the cherished memories of your pet will remain.

For more information about pet health, behavior or other ways to honor your pet, visit Pets Best Insurance.

*The Amazon link is an associate link provided by the author of this blog.

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