When you lose a beloved pet, it is only natural and perfectly normal for you to feel grief and sorrow. Research has shown that the human grieving process following a pet’s death is similar to that experienced by people who have lost a family member or close friend. Whether the loss of your beloved pet comes through old age, lingering illness, accidental death, or euthanasia, the loss of a pet can cause enormous feelings of sorrow, loneliness, and guilt. These same feeling hold true, even if your pet has gone missing.
Sometimes, pet owners are inhibited in their very real grief, even though the pet may have been considered a member of the family, a child’s favorite playmate or even the sole companion of a senior citizen. Instead of seeing grief as silly and irrational, pet owners can learn to cope with their beloved pets death as they would with any significant loss – they can express their feelings and come to terms with their loss.
When Pets Lose Their Animal Companions
Just as pets may experience a broken heart when their human caretaker dies, pets often suffer from sadness and depression when their animal companion dies or goes missing. Pets are very sensitive to any change in the household routine, and are quick to notice the absence of an animal companion. Pets often form very strong bonds to one another, and the surviving pet(s) may grieve for the loss of another in the family.
They may be lethargic, not eat, and have trouble sleeping. They may act anxious or lost and search from room to room looking for their friend. Some owners have let their other pets, sniff or snuggle with the lost pet before burial or cremation is done. It has been shown to help surviving pets to also say goodbye. Pets recognize a lot more then we give them credit for. They also are sensitive to your emotions and your grief over another pet’s death.
You will need to give your surviving pets a lot of extra attention and love to help them through this adjustment period. Spending extra time playing together, grooming them, exercising, or just sitting together and talking to them can help to ease the transitions in the household for them. The love of your surviving pets can also be wonderfully healing for your own grief.
Recommended Reading for Children
- Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant
- Cat Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant
- Meet Patou, by Dianna Edwards
- The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst
- A Special Place for Charlee, by Debby Morehead
- I’ll Always Love You, by Hans Wilhelm
- When A Pet Dies, by Mr. Rogers
Recommended Reading for Adults
- Absent Friend: Coping with the Loss of a Treasured Pet, by Laura Lee and Martyn Lee
- Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet, by Gary Kowalski
- Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children by Herbert A. Nieburg and Arlene Fischer
- Pet Love, by Betty White
- When Your Pet Dies, by James E. Quackenbush
- When Your Pet Dies: How to Cope With Your Feelings, by June Quackenbach, MSW and Denise Graveline
- A Final Act of Caring: Ending the Life of an Animal Friend, by Mary & Herb Montgomery
- Good-Bye My Friend, by Mary & Herb Montgomery
- Children and Pet Loss: A Guide for Helping, by Marty Tousley