My beloved pet just died.
The bond we form with our pets is unique and personal and so is the grief we feel when they die. All of us experience and cope with loss just a little differently.
We can experience a wide range of emotional and physical states: shock, sorrow, anger, fatigue, guilt, insomnia, loss of appetite, and loneliness. Others may feel simply empty. All of these things are normal. What’s important is that you allow yourself to grieve as much or as little as you need and for as long as you need.
Talk with others. Share your precious memories. Seek support from family, friends, and caring people. Finally, the day will come when thoughts of your beloved pet will only bring you smiles.
When hope is not enough.
Although our hope would be for our animal companions to live a long, healthy life and die curled up in a peaceful sleep, illness or injury may instead cut short the time you always expected to have together. Often we are faced with the heartbreaking decision of choosing the time, place, and method of our pet’s death when it becomes clear that they are suffering or when other needs predominate. Choosing to end the life of your pet can be one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. Thinking about saying goodbye and the subsequent loss is sometimes so painful that you are unable to make any decision at all.
You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Get help from your veterinarian, pet loss counselors, and others who have gone through similar experiences. There are no right answers: just do what feels right for you.
Treatment options for grief and loss.
Our clinicians are trauma-certified and versed in many types of trauma-related therapeutic approaches. We approach grief and loss trauma treatment with compassionate caring; never minimizing or judging your experiences.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT)
Interpersonal therapy focuses on relationships with others and re-establishing normal roles in life.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
Through CBT, we help you challenge and replace negative thought patterns with more adaptive ways of coping.
Dialectic behavior therapy (DBT)
DBT integrates treatments from behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy to validate your experiences, stabilize your emotions, and cope with stress.
Intensive family therapy
We recognize families and loved ones are crucial in supporting you as you adjust to your loss and plan for the future. Family members often need to process their own loss-related emotions and may need to grieve.
How do I tell my children?
Children grieve very differently than adults. A child’s perception of death varies as a function of age, level of maturity, and personal experience. Understanding the level of emotional and cognitive development that your child possesses will better enable you to explain what it means when a pet dies or leaves home for whatever reason. Using statements such as “put to sleep” or “passed on” have very different meanings for children and we suggest that you avoid these confusing euphemisms.
To help your child understand the permanence of death and the grief involved with the loss, keep the following suggestions in mind:
- Always be honest with your child.
- Encourage your child to talk about his/her feelings.
- Allow yourself to be honest with your own feelings.
- Alert your child’s teacher or daycare provider as to the recent family sadness.
- Read a book with your child that addresses pet loss.
- Allow your child to grieve with the family. Show them, by example, that it is appropriate to be sad and cry.
- Emphasize the fact that nobody is to blame for the death/loss of your pet. Children tend to think in concrete terms and often wonder if they are somehow responsible.
- If possible, give children an opportunity to say goodbye. This will allow for a sense of closure.
Do animals grieve?
We may never know if animals feel the loss of other animals the same way we do. However, it is clear by their actions that they do respond to the absence of their companions.
You may see changes in their eating and sleeping habits, they might appear depressed, or may constantly search for their missing friend. Many will need time and extra attention from loving owners to adjust to their new life.
While we may not know the depth of their grief, we can help them get through the experience as they also help us.
Can you recommend any resources?
Heart Dog: Surviving the Loss of Your Canine Soul Mate by Roxanne Hawn
The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity by Demian Dressler and Susan Ettinger
The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions by Christopher K. Germer
Are there any Internet support groups?
Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
Pet bereavement counselors, virtual condolence cards, counselors at law for pet-related matters, In Memoriam list, bereavement for service dogs, local meetings, and more
Animal Love & Loss Network
Counselors, local support groups, list of books, memorials, postings for missing pets
The Rainbow Bridge story; Monday Pet Loss Candle Ceremony; message board, chat room; add pet’s name to list for tributes; poetry and music in memory of pets
Rainbows Bridge Grief Support Center
One-on-one online grief counseling, memorials, Monday Night Candle Ceremony
In Memory of Pets
Submit a tribute, candlelight ceremony, share your pet’s family story, photo gallery
Lightning Strike Pet-Loss Support Page
The name comes from the hope that the page will provide lightning-fast help for the griever