The Pain of Losing a Pet

The Pain of Losing a Pet

Last update: 10 May, 2017

We all know what it’s like to go through the grieving process. When a family member passes away or a loved one leaves you, you need time to accept that they’re not with you anymore. But what about when your pet is the one that leaves you?  The pain of losing a pet is a subject that people don’t talk about too much. 

Also, many people who have never known the love of an animal don’t understand what it means, and therefore, they minimize and undervalue it. This means the person suffering from the loss also has to deal with their pain being invalidated.

Cats, dogs, rabbits, turtles…they’re not just animals. When you adopt them, they become a part of the family.

A pain that’s rarely recognized

If you’ve felt the pain of losing a pet, you may have encountered people who’ve said things like “they’re just an animal,” “just get another one,” etc. This doesn’t do anything to help the person who just lost their most faithful friend. Imagine going to a funeral and saying the same thing about a baby that just passed away. Does it make sense to say, “don’t worry, you can have another one.” Would you ever tell someone that they could just adopt another father or mother?

People still continue to undervalue the emotional impact of losing a pet. In fact, there are many people who don’t even feel bad or sympathize when their best friend goes through this type of loss. And sometimes they even avoid talking about it to show how unimportant it is.

cats snuggling

Crying over the loss

When you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, having a funeral ceremony can ease some of the pain because it brings you together with the people you need in that moment. Along with having the support of your family, the act of burying or cremating that person in a way that honors them and allows you to say a proper goodbye to them can offer some initial comfort.

These rituals create a context and atmosphere in which the pain can be expressed and shared. Are there any funeral rituals for pets?

How many people would go to the funeral of a pet? These days, people still minimize the loss of dear friends.

There are animal crematoriums and cemeteries, but publicly saying goodbye to your best furry friend is in no way similar to the way you would another person. There’s no real procedure, which implies that if your dog, cat, rabbit, or turtle dies, you have to say goodbye to them the way they deserve. 

Feeling guilt and pain over losing a pet

Not saying a proper goodbye to your pet can be damaging to the grieving process, especially if you feel guilty over their death. Perhaps your pet had a health problem and you feel guilty for not having taken better care of them or paying them more attention. Maybe those cysts that were a side effect of their medication could have been avoided.

These are a few thoughts that might run through your head and make you feel guilty. But the main reason people feel guilty over the death of a pet is euthanasia, which is not legal for humans, but is one of the options that is most often used to relieve the suffering of animals.

boy watching birds

Euthanasia makes a lot of people feel guilty over the death of their pets for having set a date for their death as a last resort. Many people who opt for euthanasia even feel like murderers. But don’t forget that when you turn to this option, it’s because there were no other alternatives to save them.

In this regard, support is essential. Allowing the person to put their suffering into words will help them validate and cope with it. That way, it won’t stay with them like a rock in their shoe that gradually starts to cut through the skin.

Never deny your pain over the death of your pet. The only possible outcome of this is unresolved pain. 

Getting a new pet

If you’re in the first phase of grief, you’re probably not ready to get a new pet. It’s normal to feel like you’re somehow betraying the memory of the one that passed away by letting another one take their place. This also isn’t good for the new pet, because it can warn them of future suffering.

People who have suffered such a great loss, such a deep wound, need affection. They need time to talk, to be in silence, to get mad at the world, and to ask questions. But what they need to most is a helping hand for when they show the first signs of passing from one stage of grief to the next, until they’re able to integrate the experience into their lives.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.