The healing process when you lose your beloved animal companion

Our pets rely on us for everything, all their lives. In many ways, caring for our pets is similar to caring for children. We bond with them like any other close member of our family. They become a vital part of our everyday life. When we lose our pet, whether because of old age, tragic circumstance or we have to make a decision to euthanize the pet, we lose a very close member of our immediate family. We are in a state of mourning.

What can you expect when you are grieving the loss of the beloved pet?

  • The clarity of your thinking may be lost for a short time because the emotions are so intense.
  • You may feel confused and guilty. Guilt is a common response to feeling the responsibility for your actions.
  • At times you may relief and a set of mixed emotions that include happy memories and gratitude about your pet mixed with sadness, guilt and loss.
  • You may feel overwhelmed by a torrent of powerful emotions, from deep sadness to irritation and anger with yourself, your close family, the pet for abandoning you and with clinicians who were involved in the circumstances.
  • At times you will feel tired and unable to focus or concentrate.
  • The intense pain that you experience may be one that you have never experienced before.  
  • At times, you will feel “irrational”, “insane”, and “silly” when experiencing such strong emotions
  • You may want to isolate yourself from other people, withdraw from previously enjoyable activities or your family and friends, and/or mask your grief by playing down or denying your emotions.

Externalizing your thoughts and emotions about your loss and grief helps you integrate them into your life and heal. Healing your pain is a responsibility you owe to yourself because suppressed pain and grief often lead to anxiety, depression and not being able to move forward.  If your loving companions could speak to you after death they would ask you to heal the pain, remember them with fondness and move forward.