How to Cope with the Death of Your Pet

We Don’t Talk About the Grief of Pet Loss Enough

Anyone who has had a pet knows the bittersweet reality that in most cases, we will outlive our beloved pets. But just because they have shorter lifespans than we do, doesn’t mean our bonds are any less close and meaningful. And that goes for the grief of losing a pet, too. Experts have shared that for some, the death of a pet can be more devastating than the loss of a human.

Unlike human relationships, pet relationships aren’t complicated. They give us unconditional love, and they’re often a constant presence in our lives. When that ends, we might feel overwhelming grief. And that grief is made even more difficult because society doesn’t typically recognize pet loss grief as legitimate. If you find yourself feeling the pain of coming home to a house without your pet there but nobody seems to understand it, what can you do? 

1. Don’t filter your feelings. Just because other people might minimize your grief or you may not see examples of the aftermath of pet loss, doesn’t mean your emotions aren’t valid. Everyone feels different emotions, at different intensities, during different times. Whenever you’re in a space that feels comfortable to do so, let those feelings come.

2. Create your own ritual. You can take a walk with caring friends at the park where you usually walked your dog, or light a candle at the time you would usually give your cat dinner. Since mourning rituals aren’t built into society in the same way as when a human dies, it can be difficult to acknowledge your loss in that way. But rituals help us process and grieve. Whether you are inspired by familiar traditions or come up with something all your own, it can help to make your grief into a practice you do, instead of just something that happens to you. 

3. Connect with others who understand. Check out your local animal shelters for resources on pet loss support groups, or connect with pet owners online who have the same kind of pet as you. Pet loss and the grief that follows it is more common than we think. Chances are, you know someone personally who has gone through it. We’re just not used to talking about it. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who have been there, whether in person, online, or through a group. 

4. Give yourself time. You might hear people ask when you’re getting a new pet or judge yourself for leaving your animal’s toys around the house. There’s no rush to get rid of items, consider getting a new pet, or miss the routines and memories you shared with your animal family. Take all the time you need.

5. Do something meaningful. Volunteering at a shelter, donating to an organization, or fostering an animal in need are all ways you can channel your grief into something that feels good and does good. Contributing to something related to your pet is one way to honor your bond and their memory.

Hearts of Hope is proud to offer opportunities this summer to do something in honor of a pet, through our Newtown, CT Chapter summer series to benefit the Senior Paw Project of the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary. Our Newtown chapter is hosting the first  “Paint with a Purpose” event next week on June 28th at 6pm at the Acquila’s Nest Vineyard. Hearts of Hope gifts will be prepared to be given to volunteers who honor the bond between caregivers and their pets through their work with the Senior Paw Project. 

These Paint with a Purpose events are just one way we help people find community and meaning after loss. Whether you’re looking for an event, a workshop, a friendly face, or just to learn more about what you’re going through, Hearts of Hope is here—no matter your grief. 

Photo courtesy of Pinterest