Pet Loss

If you have lost a pet, or are talking to a veterinarian about euthanasia, then you know how strong the feelings of grief can be.  The loss of a beloved pet of any species - dog, cat, bird, horse and more - can be heartbreaking.  Your pet may feel like your best friend, family member, or child.  You may feel an intensity of grief that is as strong, and even stronger, than the loss of a close friend or family member.  But there is hope: you can find peace while still honoring your love for your pet.

If you are considering euthanasia, click here

For information on San Francisco Bay Area Pet Loss Support Groups, click here.

Some common issues that can make pet grief difficult include:
  • Grief about pets is often not respected by our society.  Friends, family or co-workers may belittle your feelings, or tell you to "just get over it".
  • Some pet owners feel guilty for feeling more grief than they did when they lost a family member.
  • Pets provide unconditional love and support, and are your companion day and night.  The loss of this intense bond can be confusing and destabilizing.
  • Some pet owners feel strong guilt or doubt about euthanasia.  ("Was it too soon?  Was it too late?")
  • The loss of a pet can be particularly hard and confusing for children.  

What can you do to help with your grief?

People often ask, "What can help me with these intense feelings?"  Below are some ideas that other pet owners have found helpful:
  • It is important to find people who will respect and listen to your feelings about your loss. Consider attending a pet loss support group.   Find a list of support groups here
  • Burial of your pet can help honor your loss and accept your feelings.
  • Many pet owners find that rituals (such as lighting a candle or reading a prayer) can help honor your pets memory and continued love for them.  
  • Read a book on pet loss.   See a list of books here
  • Consider seeing a professional therapist to help process your loss.

When is it helpful to see a therapist about pet loss?

It is normal for the intense grief from pet loss to last weeks or months.  If it lasts longer, or if it seems that your feelings are not getting better, you may consider seeking help from a professional therapist.  People chose to get help from a therapist for many reasons, including: 
  • They want more support from someone who won't judge or criticize them.
  • They fear that the grief will be overwhelming.  
  • There are strong feelings of guilt or doubt that interfere with healing their grief.
  • The grief is so strong that it interferes with work or relationships.
  • You are experiencing obsessive thoughts about the loss or sleep problems. 

Click here for a list of pet loss support groups, books and online resources.

Subpages (1): Pet Loss Resources