How to Grieve the Loss of a Pet

If you are a pet-owner, you know that the bond you have with your pet is precious and significant.

So, experiencing the loss of a pet is a completely heart-wrenching process. Always remember that you are going through a real and deeply tumultuous time, and your grief is okay.

In this article, we’ll guide you through some important reminders while you cope and grieve, including:

  • What to expect: behavior and emotions
  • What to remember: important affirmations to keep in mind
  • How to move forward: gentle suggestions for moving past grief

What to Expect: Behavior and Emotions

Grief manifests both physically/behaviorally and emotionally. Here are a few things to expect, and remember that you don’t have to experience all these symptoms to be experiencing grief.

Physical Symptoms of Grief

Grief is not entirely emotional. Here are a few physical symptoms of grief:

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

Emotional Symptoms of Grief

  • Increased irritability
  • Numbness
  • Bitterness
  • Detachment
  • Preoccupation with loss
  • Inability to show or experience joy
  • General disorientation

What to Remember: Important Affirmations to Keep in Mind

Your Grief is Valid

It may be tempting to dismiss your grief as silly because it was “just an animal.” But remember that your grief is just as valid as any other grief.

The bond you have with a pet is a deep and loyal one. Don’t forget that grieving them can feel just as intense, if not more, as when you grieve a person.

If someone close to you invalidates your grief by insinuating that the grief of a person “hurts more,” make sure to keep a healthy distance from them as you cope.

We form deep bonds with animals, and your grief can be just as intense as any grief of a friend or loved one.

There is No Timeline for Grief

In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross published On Death and Dying, which is famously known for introducing the world to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

While the five stages are all real symptoms of grief, they do not always manifest in that order, if at all.

Remember that your grief doesn’t have to be a five-phase process, and don’t push yourself to feel a “certain way.” Experience your grief organically.

Refer back to our section on behavior and emotions to find out what common symptoms of grief you can expect.

How to Move Forward: Gentle Suggestions for Moving Past Grief

Adopt If/When You Want To

Some people may advise you against “replacing” your pet and say not to adopt another pet immediately so that you have time for closure.

However, experts in psychology like Stephanie A. Sarkis Ph.D. tell us that “closure is overrated,” because grief does not have a clear start and finish.

Moreover, as a pet-owner, you know that the bond between you and your pet was deep and loyal. So, it seems somewhat insulting to suggest the notion that you may be trying to “replace” your pet at all.

Pet ownership even has many health benefits, such as decreased stress and blood pressure. So, adopt again when it feels right for you.

Implement a Routine

If you’re feeling lethargic and unmotivated to go about your day, you’re not alone.

Implementing a consistent routine may be greatly beneficial to you in this process, especially when you have lost your prior routine with your pet—such as going for walks or putting out pet food.

Try to make time to get your body moving when you’re grieving. Many people praise the meditative and stress-relieving benefits of yoga, for example, but find what exercise feels best to you.

Exercise is an excellent way to get your day and your body moving. When you exercise, neurotransmitters such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin flood your brain, and you will feel stress and pain relief.

Talk to Someone

When you’re struggling emotionally, it is always vital that you talk to someone that you trust and can confide in.

This individual can be a close friend, grief counselor, or contributor to an online forum.

Remember that considering suicide is a very real experience during grief. If you believe you are in danger of hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or go to They are available 24 hours a day and also have a web chat service.

You will be okay.

If you’re reading this article, you must be feeling a tremendous amount of pain. However, always remember that your pet lived a wonderful life, and things will slowly get better.

For questions, partnerships, or to get covered on the GRW blog, click here.

New Posts