Losing a pet is one of the most challenging parts of being a pet owner. Research has confirmed that the death of a pet can and will affect us just as much as the death of a human. Our animal companions are more than just members of the family, they are a part of us and our everyday lives. Losing a pet is not only like losing a best friend, but also feels much like losing a part of ourselves.

Here at Bayside Animal Hospital, we provide senior pet care and frequently experience the loss of a pet alongside our beloved owners as they go through the grief of watching a pet age–and their pet nears the end of life. To help you cope with this loss, we’ve put together helpful advice and resources to provide support during this difficult time. Remember, you are not alone and we’re here when you need us.

Moving Through the Grief of Losing a Pet

girl with large stuffed animal outdoors, sad

The first step in recovering from the loss of a pet is simply accepting it as reality, which can take quite a bit of time. You will never forget your pet, and healing from the immediate pain of their loss will take some serious self-care and time. You shouldn’t expect to reach a point where you no longer think of your lost pet or miss them, but instead, strive to move through the everyday motions without breaking down. It’s completely normal to feel as if your memories and grief are your last connection to your pet, and it’s not uncommon to feel guilty for trying to move on. In fact, doing so may feel as if you’re leaving your loved one in the past when this isn’t the case.

Coping Resources for the Loss of a Pet

grey cat sitting next to a book, serene, dark tones

The following resources can help you work through the grieving process, step-by-step. Remember that everyone is different, and it’s natural for grief to come and go in waves. You may believe you are really doing okay, only to be hit by a sudden wave of sadness and begin to cry. You may also get angry, feel desperate, or even deny the reality of losing a pet. Turning to these resources may provide advice that resonates with you, and helps you to work through difficult moments.

  • If connecting with others going through a similar experience might be of help, there are many groups and chat rooms where pet owners gather online for grief support over the loss of their loved one. Facebook’s The Rainbow Bridge Pet Loss and Grief Support Group is just one example–with over 38,000 members. We also have a Pet Grieving Resources page on our website.

Actively Honoring Your Pet’s Memory

an open photo album with photo memories of a pet

Activities can help you cope with pet loss and work through the grief surrounding your pet. Some of these activities may provide some solace for you:

  • Write a letter to your pet that reflects how much they meant to you 
  • Print out photos from your phone and arrange them into a scrapbook 
  • Create a memorial box that contains your pet’s collar, favorite toys, and photos
  • Keep your pet’s memory alive by donating to an animal charity or volunteering on their behalf 
  • Consider fostering another animal by providing a loving home to a pet in need, as they find their forever home

Allow Yourself to Mourn Your Pet 

Accepting the death of a pet requires fully acknowledging and honoring the weight of their absence. This is a real reminder of how much they mean to you and the depth of your love. Death never severs that connection, and it never erases your bond.

Pay close attention to yourself during this time as well, and be sure to take care of yourself. Go for walks, listen to calming music or meditations, or try journaling. While grief is natural, it can lead to (or worsen) bouts of depression, especially if you’ve experienced depression before. If you need to, consider seeking a professional to talk to during a time filled with such strong emotions. Therapy can help you cope with grief in a healthier way and move forward while remembering your pet with all the love you have to give.

Remember to surround yourself with love and patience during this difficult time. Your pet was a companion, a best friend, and most likely a member of the family. At Bayside Animal Hospital, our hearts are with you and your family during this difficult time.