Pet Loss: What to Expect When You’re Grieving for a Pet

GoodTherapy | Pet Loss: What to Expect When You're Grieving for a Pet

Grieving for a Lost Pet: What to Expect and How to Get Support

Pet grief support is important when you are grieving for a pet. While grieving for a pet can be equally, if not more, difficult than losing a person in your life, we are not offered the same comforts after their death. There are no funerals for pets, bereavement periods, wakes, or any of the traditional things we do for people when they pass. However, the bond between humans and their pets can be one of the strongest links that a person ever experiences. You may wish to seek support when your grief over a lost pet becomes too much to bear.

What to Expect When You’re Grieving for a Pet

Grieving a pet loss can surprise you with its intensity. Here are some things you can expect to experience during this time. 

The Normal Cycle of Grief

Depending on the bond between you and your animal friend, you might experience the same level and cycle of grieving for a pet as you would a fellow human. The normal cycle of grief includes denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance, and then return to your life. You might not experience every step in the cycle, but do not be surprised if you experience these stages of grief when you’re mourning a pet.

Increased Feelings of Loneliness

With the suddenness of your animal companion’s absence, you might experience increased feelings of loneliness. This feeling is extremely normal, and it doesn’t mean you must immediately get another pet. Many think it’s best to properly grieve your loss before bringing another pet into your life. 

An Adjustment Period

You can expect to experience an adjustment period when grieving for a pet. You might find yourself forgetting they’re gone for a moment, expecting them to be there when you open the door, or even thinking you hear them – Spot’s paws on the floor, Chico’s feathers ruffling, Gracie’s whinny from the barn. Give yourself a lot of grace during this period; it’s a very normal part of grieving a lost pet. Your new normal will take some getting used to


Depression is often experienced by those who have undergone a major loss. Sometimes people diminish the pain of grieving for a pet or feel embarrassed that they are having a hard time about this, but if you’re struggling, it’s completely appropriate to seek professional help. This is always true, and it’s certainly true when it comes to losing a beloved pet. 

Where to Find Pet Grief Support

From Your Loved Ones

Those closest to you in life probably know the bond that existed between you and your pet. You might find grief support from your loved ones. This might look like them listening as you reflect on positive memories of your companion, communicate the level of grief you are experiencing, or just seek comfort as you adjust to your new normal.

From a Therapist

A qualified mental health professional will understand that grieving for a pet is a real experience that can cause deep distress. Your therapist can be a great source for pet grief support. They can teach you strategies to navigate your grief so that you do not feel overwhelmed by or lost in it. A therapist can also help you journey through the stages of grief so you can fully return to your life.

From a Support Group

Support groups can also be a great resource for pet grief support. This is especially true if you find that those in your life do not quite understand what you are going through. Working with others who understand firsthand what you are currently going through can give you hope for the future and a community to connect with while grieving for a pet.

Click to find a therapist who can provide grief support while you’re grieving for your pet. 

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