A pet parent holding a cute, gray cat

Why Does Losing a Pet Hurt So Much?

Understanding the Pain of Grief

Heartache isn’t just a poetic turn of phrase. The emotions of grief can be felt in your body: the tightness in your chest, the throb in your head, the heaviness in your limbs. Losing a beloved animal companion can be a mental, emotional, and physical ordeal, just the same as losing any other family member.

Pet owners often face pressure to hide or downplay their grief when a pet dies. After all, it was just a pet, right? The fact is that pets are so much more than that. They are constant companions, a source of unconditional love, and a comforting presence.

Now that they’re gone, your life has changed, and things can never go back to the way they were. You’ll never make new memories together. You’ll never run your fingers through their fur or plant kisses on their whiskery face.

Of course it hurts! You’ve lost someone irreplaceable, and it’s only natural for your heart to ache with the pain of that loss. And in some cases, there are additional factors that can make the loss of a pet hurt even more.

Love with Nowhere to Go

Grief is part of the admission cost for love. When you’ve spent a pet’s lifetime caring for their every need, you pour your heart into them. They’re dependent on you. They count on you. They reward that care with boundless affection and complete trust. Until, one day, they’re no longer with you.

All that love you gave them doesn’t just disappear because they’ve died. You still feel it and need to express it. This is why mourning, as an outward expression of grief, is so important.

When you memorialize a pet by making art, telling stories, wearing memorial jewelry, scattering their ashes, and so forth, you are directing your love into a new expression of care. This can, ultimately, help you to heal and someday even open your heart to caring for another pet.

Disrupted Routines and Habits

You probably have shaped much of your life and daily routine around your companion’s needs. How do you know it’s time to wake up if she’s not pawing at the door asking for a walk? How do you remember to take your morning medication if he isn’t meowing for his breakfast? Your grocery order doesn’t contain bags of kitty litter and cans of wet food anymore. You call ahead to the hotel to ask if it’s pet-friendly before remembering they won’t come with you on this vacation.

Every change to your lifestyle represents a loss, and each reminder can feel like a fresh heartbreak. When your routines change abruptly, you’re left feeling untethered, with no idea what to do next or how to proceed.

It can take time to change your habits and find a new sense of meaning and purpose. You have to be gentle with yourself during this time, and allow yourself to feel and acknowledge each painful loss as it comes. That’s the only way to work through those feelings and heal.

Feelings of Guilt and Remorse

As your pet’s caretaker, you may be forced to make difficult decisions as you face the end of their life. You might need to decide when it’s time to say goodbye, and that decision is never easy. Perhaps you worry you chose to euthanize them too early, and you could still have had good days together. Or you worry you waited too long, and that they might have suffered.

Sudden loss can leave you reeling with guilt, too. You might play the events over and over in your mind, trying to think of what else you could have done to prevent it or how you could have done better.

Guilt can complicate grief and make it last longer. It piles more negative emotions on top of an already emotional time, and it can hold you back from accepting a loss and beginning to heal. If you’re struggling with these feelings, it’s important that you find someone to talk to who you can help you make peace with your decisions and move on with mourning your pet. A grief counselor, pet loss hotline, or even a trusted friend can give you an outlet for these feelings and help you to work through them.

If you’re facing the loss of a pet, Best Friends Pet Passings and Cremations is here for you. We exist to make saying goodbye as peaceful as possible, from performing cremation to helping you memorialize your pet. Visit our Albuquerque location at 1001 Menaul Blvd NE or call 505-345-5615 to speak with a member of our team.

A pet parent holding a cute, gray cat