A Look at the Grieving Process
The process of grieving your pet looks different for each person. Some people may cry frequently. Others may look over and over at pictures of their pet. Still some others might feel a sense of comfort just “getting on with life.” There’s no one or right way to grieve the loss of a pet.
There are several common scenarios when it comes to pet grief.
My pet died, and I can’t stop crying
Crying is a common reaction to loss, whether it’s the loss of a friend, family member, job, house, or even a pet. You might find that the tears begin to flow for any number of reasons, including:
- Every time you walk past where their food bowl once was
- The time for their daily walk approaches
- Each time you open the door to an empty house and expect them to greet you
- A date on the calendar marks a vet appointment you made
- Seeing their empty crate, enclosure, or bed
Anything can trigger the tears, especially when you recall the special times the two of you spent together.
It can be difficult — maybe even feel impossible — to believe, but eventually, your pain will become less acute, and you will stop crying. The time frame is different for everyone. It could take days, weeks, or even months. Be patient with yourself. It’s your grief and you can’t rush it.
I feel sad, shocked, and lonely
Sadness, shock, and loneliness are all very natural reactions to loss — whether it’s the loss of a person, or a pet. This is especially true when the loss was of someone who was always at your side. The emotions you’re having are nothing to be ashamed of.
I feel guilty
Some pet caregivers feel guilty, particularly if they had to make difficult decisions about end-of-life care and treatment. Remember that how you’re feeling is a natural response, and most often, depending on the situation, there’s usually nothing you could have done to prevent your animal companion’s death.
“I remember making a video of my son saying goodbye to our cat, Katie. He expressed how grateful he was for her being in his life since kindergarten. As a 24 year old, he celebrated her life with gratitude. Therapy can be an outlet through which we can get support after a pet dies.”
The Luthas Center therapist Dr. Karmen Smith LCSW DD