Saying goodbye to our sweet pets is truly one of the most heartbreaking experiences we ever endure and should not face alone. Animals carry such unconditional love, no judgment and powerful lessons of forgiveness and resilience. Recognizing common stages of grief after pet loss is a part of the healing journey.
Stages of grief after losing a pet:
1. Emotional and physical pain after pet loss
Grief affects everyone differently through both emotional turmoil and physical exhaustion. It is normal to feel frequent waves of shock, agony, anger, sadness and loneliness, along with encountering panic attacks, nausea and loss of sleep/appetite. Although it may seem impossible during this grief stage, one should maintain general physical care and avoid making big decisions.
2. Guilt and reflection after pet loss
People also experience guilt and regret concerning their pet’s quality of life, treatment and death. They think, “What if?” on a daily basis.
Over time, we can eventually reflect on our friendship together with understanding and reconciliation about our pet’s life.
3. Self-restoration and finding peace after pet loss
Focusing on self-care and time with loved ones helps us re-establish our personal identity and acknowledge our pet’s presence in our hearts, while honoring her memory through words and actions.
4. Pet-loss grief support and guidance
There is absolutely no easy way to experience pet loss, especially with limited support. Grief counseling for pet loss is helpful for expressing personal feelings in a confidential environment and establishing self-care techniques. Pet loss support groups involve people sharing stories about their pets in a comforting setting, both in-person and virtually.
Honoring sweet Alfie: a personal story about pet loss and grieving
I can personally attest to this deep pain and need for pet grief support after losing Alfie, our precious Toy Poodle and best friend, in 2016. I still miss Alfie very much every day and treasure our special memories in my heart forever. When Alfie passed away unexpectedly through surgery from liver disease, I was just devastated and looked to numerous pet-loss books, articles, and videos for guidance, along with attending a pet-loss support group to better understand pet loss and grief. Though I was thankful to have support and care from loved ones, it was also the pet-loss support group that had brought me additional peace and comfort, especially through listening to other’s personal stories of pure love and painful loss.
Nearly seven years later, I still miss Alfie very much every day and always cherish our special memories together, but do experience unexpected moments of heavy pain and heartache too (which is normal). Alfie will always be my best friend, forever in my heart, and I am so thankful for our treasured bond together
Seeking pet-loss grief support brings guidance and reminds us that we are never alone. While our beloved pets stay with us through our hearts and memories, grief support soothes our pain and suffering.
1 thought on “4 Stages of Grief After Losing a Pet”
This is such a beautiful article, with personal and professional experience to back up the wide range of what we can go through after losing a member of the family. Too often, people who do not have pets, or who have different kinds of relationships with them, can unintentionally add to our pain by saying something that they think is "helpful." As with human relationships, I think it's better, unless you know the person extremely well, to simply say "I'm so sorry for your loss. I will keep you in my thoughts." Thank you for a wonderful and important article about a very difficult subject.