Whether you lost your best friend after many years of companionship or cared for them for just a few months, the loss of a pet can be devastating. Many of us share an intense love and bond with our animal companions. For us, a pet is not “just a dog” or “just a cat,” but rather a beloved member of our family, bringing companionship, fun, and joy to our lives.
A pet can add structure to your day, keep you active and social, help you to overcome setbacks and challenges in life, and even provide a sense of meaning or purpose. So, when a cherished pet dies, it’s normal to feel racked by grief and loss.
While we all respond to loss differently, the level of grief you experience will often depend on factors such as your age and personality, the age of your pet, and the circumstances of their death. Generally, the more significant your pet was to you, the more intense the emotional pain you’ll feel. But there are ways that you can cope with this loss—and eventually come to terms with it.
Losing a pet is never easy, no matter how old the pet or what circumstances led to the loss. No matter how many people say “it’s just a dog [or cat]” or “you can just get another one,” that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with the loss of an animal you loved.
First things first: don't let anyone tell you how to feel, and don't tell yourself how to feel either. Everyone's different, and everyone copes with loss in their own way. Give yourself space and time to process how you’re feeling.
One thing that can really help is reaching out to others who understand what you're going through—others who have lost pets themselves. There are some great online support groups (see Resources below) where you can connect with other people who have experienced similar losses and talk about your sadness and memories of your pet.
It may also help to commemorate your pet's life with some kind of ritual or ceremony—anything from a simple candlelight vigil at home or a backyard funeral for close friends and family, to something more elaborate like having a special urn made or commissioning a custom portrait of your pet. The point is just