Pet Loss

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Some people are quite shocked by the deep grief they feel after losing a companion animal. But did you know that it's very common to grieve as hard – sometimes even harder – for a pet than a human? This reaction is very normal, and no, you're not crazy! If you think about it, companion animals provide us with unconditional love, and as a consequence, we tend to form deep bonds with them. People view their pets in different ways – a companion, a friend, maybe even like a child. Losing that relationship and that special bond can be very painful. 

Common Reactions to Pet Loss

  • Social withdrawal or isolation due to lack of understanding and support (see disenfranchised grief below)
  • Deep, intense sadness
  • Denial or disbelief
  • Anger, frustration, or irritability
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Physical symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, headaches, etc.

Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief is a type of grief that is not widely accepted or validated by society. Examples may include death by suicide, miscarriage, and of course, the death of a pet. Unfortunately, when others react by being insensitive and unsupportive, this may cause the person in mourning to bury their grief. Doing so can lead to a host of negative consequences that can not only hinder the natural grieving process and the ability to heal, but can cause long-term distress. The effects of disenfranchised grief may include:

  • Emotional suppression
  • Feeling isolated, lonely, or alienated
  • Physical health issues, such as headaches, insomnia, or even high blood pressure or heart disease
  • Mental health issues including depression and anxiety
  • Strain on relationships with family and friends
  • Trauma, particularly if the animal died suddenly, unexpectedly, or in a violent/tragic way
  • Risk of developing prolonged or complicated grief

Pet Loss Counseling

If you feel your grief has been dismissed by others, you feel judged or misunderstood, please know that you can turn to one of our trusted counselors. 

Through compassionate and nonjudgmental counseling, you'll be able to talk about your loss, as well as explore topics including the grief process, the special relationship you had with your pet, the significance of the human-animal bond, euthanasia and anticipatory grief, the importance of self-care, coping skills, and ways to honor your beloved pet. Contact us here to learn more or schedule an appointment.