Grieving for a pet definitely elicits the predictable stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. Everyone follows the stages of grief in their own way and time. It may last days for one person and for another it may last years.
Permission to Grieve for a Pet
We must give ourselves permission to grieve. Claire Chew Gillenson, a life transition coach and pet loss educator, suggests designating a time each day to do this. You can read more of Claire’s insights into grieving at her website, Helping You Get Back to Happy.
How you grieve is very much a personal decision. There are many avenues that are available to you that can help with grieving for a pet. Pet loss educators offer many suggestions as to what needs to be done. Some include:
- Keeping a diary – write about your feelings. This approach helps work through your grieving. Seeing your feelings for your pet on paper can help you understand just how difficult this loss is for you. And, it can allow you to see how you are progressing while you are coping with loss.
- Talking with someone – grieving for a pet either one-on-one with a grief counselor or a friend that understands your loss. Or, you can join a pet loss support group. Either option will work. You must decide what fits best with your needs and personality. A one-on-one session allows you to focus on your needs only. The group helps show you that you are not going through this alone.
- Planning a memorial – when grieving for a pet, spending time on planning and implementing a memorial is a wonderful way to move through the grieving process.
- Caring for you – make sure that you get rest, eat regularly and maintain a normal routine. Part of that routine is to give other pets extra tender, loving care. You may be grieving for a pet, but they are grieving the loss of a friend.
Finding Helpful Information
- Your local crematory – always a great resource. Ask if they know a reputable grief counselor or pet loss support group.
- Navigating Grief – a well respected website that contains great perspective on how to get through this devastating time.
- Pet Loss – a Pet360 community that helps members with the grieving process.
Books and Articles
Here are a few books and articles we think are helpful when grieving for a pet:
My Pet Remembrance Journal by Enid Traisman
When Your Pet Dies: A Guide To Mourning, Remembering, And Healing by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
A Rainbow Bridge for Gus: A story about the loss of a family pet by Barbara Bareis Rigabar
Forever In My Heart: Remembering My Pet’s Life by Mary Montgomery
How to ROAR: Pet Loss Grief Recovery by Robin Jean Brown
Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children by Herbert A. Nieburg
Grieving the Loss of Your Pet; How to Survive Your Journey by Rebecca Cagle
For Every Dog An Angel by Christine Davis
For Every Cat An Angel by Christine Davis
Journey of Grief [pdf]