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Understanding Grief & Loss


You are not alone in your grief. Many thousands of pet owners and others who have experienced the loss of a beloved animal friend have felt a jumble of emotions in response to or in anticipation of such an event.

There is no single “right” way to grieve. Feelings of bereavement vary from person to person and may include distressing moods and confusing thoughts. Such feelings may arise slowly, then recede gradually, or they may sweep in and recede more rapidly, only to reappear again and again. Usually, feelings of grief and bereavement will gradually become less frequent and less overwhelming.

Sometimes animal lovers are surprised and even distressed when they or a family member react more strongly to the death of a beloved animal than they did to the death of a beloved human, such as a grandparent. Others may find themselves feeling surprised and perhaps distressed at the apparent mildness of their reaction to the loss of a pet. Such varied responses are not rare and need not be troubling. The number, nature and intensity of other stressors in our lives, past and present, can have a strong impact on our emotional response to a current loss. Sometimes memories of a previous loss may come flooding back, along with its related emotions. For younger people, the absence of an animal who had been part of their lives for as long as they can remember may be particularly unsettling. Protests against loss may erupt in uncharacteristic outbursts of anger.  Alternatively, the impact may be lessened when a person has not been living in the household with the pet or when other pets are still present.

We cannot always control how we feel, but we can control how we respond to emotions. We can choose to control an emotion or we can choose to allow the emotion to control us. It is important during your time of grieving to acknowledge your loss and its meaning in your life and to forgive yourself and others for any real or imagined action or inaction which might have been associated with your pet’s death.

SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP if you are experiencing prolonged difficulty dealing with your grief, to the point that it affects your daily functioning at home, school, work or socially or if periods of overwhelming grief do not appear to be lessening in intensity and frequency.