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Grieving the Loss of a Pet

grief counselling

Losing a beloved pet is a painful and sometimes traumatic experience. Death brings sadness, loss, grief and many other difficult feelings. Anger, a sense of unfairness and injustice are also common. We may also experience these feelings if we have had to part with a pet for other reasons such as divorce, moving abroad or being separated from them.

We feel the loss of our much loved animals deeply. Our pets are often our closest companions. They are by our side from morning to night. They are a constant presence in our lives, and are by our sides through our own difficulties, stresses and challenges. Animals posses a therapeutic quality that soothes and calms us, which is why they are often utilised in therapy and clinical work. They are part of our family and play a hugely important role in our lives. Their loss is felt deeply.

We often have to work through the stages of grief after the loss of someone we hold dear, and our pets are no exception to this. Initially we may enter into the shock and denial stage, where the reality of the loss does not really hit us. We may expect our pet to walk in the room, or we may go to feed them or prepare for their walk, only to remember they are no longer with us.

Over time, as we accept the reality of the loss, we may move into the anger and / or low mood phases. It is normal to feel sad, teaful and overwhelmed at this time. However, eventually, we start to process the loss and start to accept the reality of life without our pet. This does not mean that we forget about our beloved animal, but that we feel at peace with their passing. We are able to move forward with our life and consider our future without them, as sad as that may be.

grief counselling

These feelings, and our progress through the grief cycle, can be complicated by the choices we often have to make as the pets owner about how and when our pets pass. When we lose a human family member, we very rarely have a say in these matters. With a pet, their fate is often in our hands. Making the decision that it is time for your pet to pass can be extremely difficult and complex. Afterwards there can be feelings of guilt, regret or confusion, even if we feel we made the right decision. All of these feelings are very normal, common and understandable.

Talking through our thoughts and feelings about loss can help us to move through the stages of grief. However finding someone to talk to who understands what we are going through may not be easy. Not everyone in our lives may understand why we feel such powerful emotions after losing a pet and may not provide the emotional support we need. Others may not fully understand the impact of losing a pet and may make hurtful or unhelpful comments such as 'they were just an animal', 'you can get another one' or 'its not the same as losing a human'. Whilst these comments can be well-meaning, they can worsen our distress and dismiss very normal and understandable feelings.

That's why there are dedicated helplines to support people experiencing pet loss and bereavements:

There are also facebook support groups out there, where you can connect with others who understand what you are going through e.g.:

We have also created a self-help guide to help support people to progress through the grief cycle:

Grief Self-Help
Download PDF • 791KB

If you feel that you would benefit from more intensive support to work through the grief cycle or to process the loss of your beloved animal, our team of highly specialist pet loss counsellors and psychologists are qualified and experienced in providing grief counselling. We offer private counselling and psychological therapy, and our team are on hand to provide a warm, empathic and supportive space. Please do get in touch here to book an appointment.

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