Dealing with the death of a pet

There is no doubt that lives are transformed by the love and companionship a pet brings, so it is always sad, difficult, and often traumatic when a pet dies and it can affect people in many ways.

Pet bereavement

When someone you love dies it’s natural to feel loss, express grief and expect loved ones to provide understanding and comfort. Unfortunately, you don’t always get that understanding when a pet dies.

Many people we speak to consider their pets part of the family, however their friends or colleagues don’t appreciate how central their pet was in their life and may not understand why they’re grieving over ‘just a pet’. Animals can provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support and unconditional love, and they can be even more important if the person lives alone.

It’s okay to grieve when your pet dies.

It’s important to know that there is no right or ‘normal’ response to loss, however, there are some common reactions and feelings that you may experience, known as the stages of grief.  More information is available here. 

Supporting older people who are grieving

For older people, especially those living alone, the loss of a pet could be especially hard and it may even trigger painful memories of other losses or remind them of their own mortality.

If you know someone who has lost a pet, offer them the support, comfort and understanding you would if their loss were human. For tips on how to support someone grieving, download our Family Handbook.

Talking to children about grief

The loss of a pet can be hard for children but if you share your grief with them, it will help them to work through their feelings. Guidance and tips on how to talk to you child about grief and bereavement is available in TASC’s Family Handbook.

Tips to help you cope

If you’re grieving the loss of a pet, finding ways to cope with the loss can bring you closer to the day when memories will bring a smile instead of tears. Here are some ideas which you may find helpful.

Reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear

One of the most helpful things you can do is talk about your pet and your memories of them. There are many people who you could speak to, such as your family members, a friend or colleague, or even a faith or spiritual advisor.

Write about your feelings in a journal or poem

Talking about your feelings can really help you acknowledge the loss and begin the healing process, however if you’re not comfortable talking to people about your grief you could also write your thoughts and feelings down in a journal.

Join a support group

Sometimes it’s helpful to speak to people who are going through a similar experience. Your vet surgery may know of some local pet loss support groups or you could call the bereavement services run by  Blue Cross or Cats Protection.

Do something to remember your pet

As you experience grief, you don’t forget your pet but you gradually find new ways to remember them. Reminiscing about the past can be painful but creating a memory box or ritual with meaningful items can be a powerful way to keep precious memories of them alive. This may be especially helpful for children as it can provide an opportunity to talk to them about their loss or , help them to open up about their feelings, or encourage shared memories.

To remember your pet you could create a memory box full of photos and their favourite toys or collar. You could also create a ritual by lighting a candle for them every year, or donating some items to a shelter in their memory.

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This page was last updated in November 2022.