Friday, July 15, 2011

Dealing With the Loss of a Pet

Those of you who follow Bunny’s Blog on a regular basis know that BJC crossed over the Rainbow Bridge last month. So for this Blog the Change post, I wanted to talk about dealing with the loss of a pet.

When a person you love dies, it's natural to feel sorrow, express grief and expect your friends and family to provide comfort and support. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen if the one who died was your companion animal.

Many consider grieving inappropriate for someone who has lost a pet, but nothing could be further from the truth. People love their pets and consider them members of their family. So when a pet dies, it's not unusual to feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your sorrow.

Many caregivers go through the various stages of grief, including denial, anger and bargaining. After these feelings subside, they experience true sadness or depression. Eventually, they accept the loss of their pet and remember them with decreasing sadness.

The grief process is as individual as the person - for one person it may last days, for another it may last months or even years. While grief is a personal experience, you need not face loss alone. Many forms of support are available.

Here are a few suggestions to help you cope:
  • Acknowledge your grief and give yourself permission to express it.
  • Don't hesitate to reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear.
  • Write about your feelings, either in a journal or a poem.
  • Call your local humane society to see whether it offers a pet loss support group.
  • Ask your veterinarian or local animal shelter about available pet loss hotlines.
  • Explore the Internet for support groups and coping information. 
  • Prepare a memorial for your pet. 

In my situation, I received a great deal of support from my online network – Facebook friends, Twitter followers and the readers of Bunny’s Blog. It took about a month for me to work my way through the process. Although I’ll always miss BJC, I can now look at pictures of her and think about her without the overwhelming sadness I felt in the first few weeks.

If you have recently lost a beloved pet, give yourself time to grieve the loss and don’t be afraid to reach out for help from the people who surround you – both online and off.

Source: The Humane Society of the United States


  1. Thank you for this post! I attended a weekly support group after the loss of my whippet, Crystal. It was coordinated by a local university's psychology department and was free. It was comforting to know that other people understood what I was going through.

  2. Thank you Vicki for sharing. I have no way of knowing how I will handle Cleo's passing when it comes. It worries me a little but she has taught me so much already about trust and patience that I feel she will help me even at the end. But still I'm so grateful there are ways to get help from others who understand.

  3. Vicki, this is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your journey and allowing other pet care-givers to feel the relief of knowing that to grieve any loss is normal.

    I have two first-time dog-loving friends with a tragic, tragic story of loss that made me cry deep into last night just thinking about it. They have no idea what to do with their feelings but they reached out to a fellow pet owner - me. Although I am powerless to stop their pain, I think just listening as they processed the events and how they felt offered comfort. It's so important to find somebody who understands that these animals are our children. We care for them, protect them, love them and depend upon them. Their loss is no different than a family member's.

    I'm so glad to hear you are feeling better.

    Thanks for Blogging the Change and for being a terrific member of Team BTC. You've taken on a ton lately and it is so very appreciated.


  4. What a lovely post. Rumblemum says she would have been lost had it not been for her online friends when we lost sweet Inigo.

  5. Thinking of you. Thanks for this.

  6. All of us here are so sorry for your loss. Lovely post and great advice for those tough, grieving transitions in our lives.

  7. TW must have great friends cos when Autumn & Nicky went OTRB within 2 weeks of each other, her friends actually sent her Mass cards and helped her grieve. We admire the way you've handled BJC's loss online. Thanks for this post.

  8. Love and pain. Can't have one without the other. But how much better we are because of it ALL. These are good suggestions....practical and helpful.

  9. Thank you for an important post VC. People have to know it's okay to grieve for their dear animal friend. It's not an easy process to go through. When M's first kitty crossed the bridge, she couldn't even look at a picture for months without leaky eyes. But now M remember all the great joy Pepper brought into our lives, along with the 2 that followed. HUGS to you dear friend.

  10. I am so sorry for your loss, my heart goes out to you- you are very right, these furry ones are a big part of our days, our lives, our hearts.

    Again, I am so sorry. Hugs to you.

  11. Thank you so much for posting this. So sorry for your loss--you're right; online support is important, but your other suggestions are so right on. I'll pass them on to others going through the process now.

  12. Great advice, many people don't understand the impact our furry friends have in our lives. They truly are members of our families and certainly missed when they cross that bridge.

    I'm sorry for your loss but glad you have a network to turn to for support.

  13. We're dealing with some pet health issues in our household right now and this post really hits close to home. No, not everyone empathizes with pet-related stress or sorrow, but it's nice to be reminded that many do.
    Thank you.

  14. this was such a touching and important post. Thank you for sharing this.

    When I lost my Bobo it was the most overwhelming grief I had practically ever known (some people will be appalled at what I am going to say but it was as painful for me as losing my Dad whom I adored)

    I stayed away from those who just "didn't get it"

    What I found to be of somewhat of a comfort was buying picture frames that have multiple slots for photos. I made at least 4 collage type photos and hung them in EVERY room. I needed Bobo to still be with me in every room I entered as he had been in life.

    I still have the photos displayed. In a sense he is never out of my life.

  15. I'm so sorry to hear about Bunny Jean. You wrote this article so beautifully, even though I know you are still grieving.

    Twelve feline losses later I've learned how to ease the grief before and after, but nothing will ever take it away. As deeply as you loved, so do you grieve, but the love is never gone.

    And I really think all those bunnies you were seeing a few weeks back were her signaling you, like the Velveteen Rabbit.

    My thoughts are with you.

  16. It is so difficult to face the loss of one of our furry loved ones. They give so much, it is only natural to grieve for them. Thank you for sharing :)

  17. So sorry about your loss. And a beautifully written article and so true. I am usually awkward when someone talks to me about their loss and going through it myself over the years, now i know its just about some heartfelt support.

    Take care
    Richa and Chewie at

  18. Thanks very much for this post. Grief is not an easy subject, especially when you're experiencing it. With your loss being so recent, I really admire that you're able to write about the process so thoughtfully. Your suggestions are wonderful and right on.

    When I lost Daley, my best friend of nearly 14 years, creating memorials was a big comfort to me and attending pet loss support groups - which I had not known existed - provided the release that I needed in an non-judgmental surrounding. I could go there and cry my face off and every single person in the room understood how I was feeling.

    I know Bunny will continue to inspire you and, as with this post, help you help others.

    -Chandra at Daley's Dog Years