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What to Expect With the Loss of a Pet


Like many people, you may consider your pets as valuable — or even more valuable — than human family members. When pets pass away, it’s common to feel as if your whole life has been uprooted and that things will never be the same again. Keep reading to learn what’ll likely happen after you experience pet loss and how to cope with it.

You May Feel Intensely Lonely After Getting Home for the Day

Companion animals typically get very excited when their owners come home. That said, even if you only had to leave for 20 minutes to pick up a carton of milk at the store, you probably became accustomed to being immediately greeted by an overjoyed canine or feline upon arriving back in the door.
When that pet is no longer around to provide that faithful, warm greeting, the loss you’ve recently experienced will feel more significant than ever. It’ll take a while for the sting of that absence to ease.

Friends and Family Might Have Trouble Understanding Your Grief

If a well-meaning pal asks why you look so glum and their question leads to an explanation of losing your pet, don’t be surprised if the response is something like, “It was just an animal. You can get another one.” Although it’s true the option is open to you to bring another pet into your life when and if you are ready, it’s usually painful to hear anyone referring to your beautiful pet as “just” anything.

Instead of potentially getting into a disagreement about priorities and pets, politely remove yourself from the conversation, so you have an opportunity to grieve privately. Also, seek out pet loss support groups in your area. When you’re around other people who have recently lost pets, it’ll be easier to find common ground with them, and you won’t have to worry about individuals claiming the amount of worth you placed on your pet’s life was invalid.

You’ll Need to Handle the Practicalities of Pet Loss

When it seems you’re immersed in grief, doing the basic tasks of life can be extremely difficult. Plus, you may come up against mental and emotional “blocks” that prevent you from making decisions about things like how to handle your pet’s remains and whether to create a memorial for the animal.

Don’t be hard on yourself about those things. It’s natural to have difficulty coming to terms with reality, and you may feel that, by making those kinds of choices, you have to accept your pet is really gone.

Consider that one way you could help your pet live on in your memory is by investing in an engraved garden stone or other decorative item bearing the companion’s name and a pertinent phrase. Then, whenever you see that tribute, you can think fondly of your departed creature.

Feeling Guilty Is a Common Occurrence

Very often, pet owners go through paralyzing guilt. If the same happens for you, expect to silently ask yourself what you could have done differently to either prevent the loss or prolong the pet’s lifespan. Guilt may also arise if you blame the veterinarian who treated your pet and either attempted to save its life or gave you the devastating news that options for interventions were exhausted.

Blaming yourself might happen, too. That’s especially true if you believe preventing the outcome was possible by taking the pet to get veterinary attention sooner or if you had to get euthanasia to end the animal’s life.

grieving womanGetting past these periods of guilt during the grieving process is often possible through targeted meditations. Don’t expect these strong feelings to go away overnight but have confidence that when you practice meditation regularly, they should ease.

Besides keeping the specific things above in mind, remember that mourning the passing of your pet is a personal process. There is no precise time-frame for how long the worst of the grief might last and when you’ll begin to feel better. Surrounding yourself with understanding pet owners could help you feel less alone.


About Author

Emily is a wildlife conservation and pet care writer and avid animal lover. You can read more of her articles on her blog, Conservation Folks, and follow her Twitter, @emilysfolk.

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This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a commission for sales referred from links on our site. We're also Amazon Associates, so we may earn from those qualifying purchases, too. Learn more!