Pet Loss Support
Coping with the loss of a companion animal?
The loss of a beloved pet, whether due to death, being lost or stolen, or placement in a new home may be one of the most devastating and painful experiences we ever face. For many such a loss is as traumatic as losing a family member or a dear friend and can trigger an intense grieving process.
Grieving for a loved animal is a natural and normal reaction and will vary from person to person. Shock, denial, and feeling of anger and guilt are frequently felt upon learning our pet is terminally ill, injured, or dead; these feelings may last minutes to weeks or even years later as we work through our feelings and begin to rediscover and reconnect with life. As time passes, we can focus more on fond memories and less on the pain of the separation.
We may experience all, some, or none of the above reactions and the timing and intensity of these feelings vary among individuals. It is important to acknowledge our feelings, whatever they may be, and give ourselves permission to grieve.
Self Care Measures for the Bereaved
- Attend a support group
- Do not be afraid of your feelings; be open to sharing them
- Exercise, eat right and get plenty of rest
- Involve yourself in activities that are comforting or enjoyable
- Avoid alcohol and other drugs that can intensify feelings of depression
- Manage one day at a time
How to Support a Friend in Grief
- As soon as you learn of the loss, get in touch; it is never too late to offer concern and support
- Silence is OK; there is comfort in quiet company.
- Instead of clichés that might minimize the loss, simply say “I’m sorry” or “How can I help?”
- Be accepting of your friend’s feelings whatever they may be
- Try not to be upset or uncomfortable if your friend cries. Tears can be healing.
- Do not be afraid to offer a hug.
- Try to plan activities you can do together. If one offer is declined, do not be hurt and do not give up.
- Be patient; grief is an individual process and resolution come at different times for different people
Pet Loss Support Resources
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Stephanie LaFarge, Ph.D
(800) 946-4646 pin# 140-7211 and leave your number
Iams Pet Loss Support Resource Center
Iowa State University Veterinarian Students
Anderson, M., Coping With Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet, Peregrine Press, 1987
Fitzgeral, H., The Grieving Child: A Parents Guide, Fireside, (1992)
Kay, T., To Dance with the White Dog, Washington Square Press, 1990
McElroy, S., Animals as Teachers and Healers, New Sage Press, 1993
Montgomery, M. and Montgomery, H., A Final Act of Caring: Ending the Life of an Animal Friend, Montgomery Press, 1993
Neiburg, H., et al, Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children, Harper and Row, 1992