Woman petting cat while sitting on the couch.

How to Deal with Losing a Pet

Many pet owners are unprepared for the emotions that come with the death of a beloved animal. For those who have never experienced pet loss, they may not realize that grief over a pet can be as difficult and overwhelming as the death of a friend or family member. And many people feel embarrassed to be grieving an animal so deeply. But please know—it’s completely normal, healthy and ok to grieve the loss of a pet you loved.

What does grief look like?

Grief doesn’t just look like sadness and tears, it is a complex emotion that affects individuals in a myriad of different ways. Sometimes people are grieving, and don’t recognize that what they are experiencing is actually grief. The following is a list of signs that may indicate you are experiencing grief:

Emotional Signs of Grief

  • Increased irritability
  • Numbness
  • Bitterness
  • Detachment
  • Preoccupation with loss
  • Inability to show or experience joy
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Guilt
  • Feeling alone
  • Excessive worry
  • Restlessness
  • Social anxiety

Physical signs of grief:

  • Digestive problems
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Sore muscles
  • Sleep disruption

How do I deal with the grief of losing a pet?

Just like grief can manifest in different ways, it can also be managed in different ways for different people. Consider these methods to help cope with your loss:

  • Cry. Give yourself permission to cry and release emotions.
  • Find support in a family member or friend.
  • Create a ritual. A memorial service is one type of goodbye ritual.
  • Create a legacy, such as planting a tree in their memory, making a photo book of them, or commissioning a piece of art.
  • Practice self-care. Eat well and stay hydrated, get enough sleep, and exercise. Staying physically healthy can have a huge impact on your emotional wellness too.
  • Take care of your other pets. They can sense your distress and sadness, and will need your love and attention, as well as keeping to a normal routine. They may also be grieving the loss of your pet, too.
  • Artistic expression – Drawing, painting, knitting, crafting, wood carving – all of these can be cathartic and soothing ways to cope with grief.
  • Journal. Write down your feelings or write a letter to your beloved pet.
  • Seek out support online or ask your veterinarian about pet grief support groups. You’re not alone in this.

If you find that your grief is feeling overwhelming, preventing you from your normal daily activities, or lasts for a prolonged period of time, we encourage you to reach out to a professional grief counselor for help in healing.

Best Friends Pet Passings and Cremations helps families in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho say goodbye to their furry family members every day, and we know how difficult it can be. If you have any questions about dealing with grief and loss, or about our cremation and memorial services, please call us at 505.345.5615.

Woman petting cat while sitting on the couch.