Coping with Grief

Loss of a Beloved Pet Can Be Difficult

Pets are with us through so many of our life events—marriages, births, children growing up and even death. So when the pet dies, it’s not unusual to mourn the loss, says Linda Pribble, volunteer and bereavement coordinator for NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement.

“Pets are family members, and losing that pet can be tough,” she says. Whether a dog, cat or bird, it’s a loss just the same, and it will be normal for people to grieve.

How deeply and how long you grieve the loss is a personal process, and there’s no specific timeline, she stresses. “While everyone’s grieving process is different, it is important to allow yourself the opportunity to grieve the loss and honor what the pet meant to you.”

Linda Pribble

As with all grief, the process can unfold in stages. You may experience different feelings such as denial, anger, guilt, depression, and eventually acceptance and resolution. Others find that grief is more cyclical, coming in waves, or a series of highs and lows.

Still, even years after a loss, the sight of a favorite pet toy, the sound of a familiar bark or meow, or a special anniversary can spark memories that trigger a strong sense of grief. It’s important to be patient with yourself and your feelings, and allow the process to take its natural course.

The process may be complicated if there are some around you who devalue the loss of your pet. Some people assume that pet loss shouldn’t hurt as much as human loss, or that it is somehow inappropriate to grieve for an animal. They may not understand because they don’t have a pet of their own, or because they are unable to appreciate the companionship and love that a pet can provide. Seek support from others who have lost pets, because they may be able to suggest ways of getting through the grieving process.

Should you replace the pet? “Some may find it helps the healing process to adopt another one, while others may find it too difficult and need time. It really depends on the individual,” Linda says.

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