Grieving for Your Pet: What You Should Know

Rainbow Bridge Frame Adoration Pet Cremation Urn

I worked at a local pet shelter for well over a year here in West Texas, and I saw many people who were grieving for their dead pets during that time. Since we had euthanasia services and I sometimes had to work intake, I saw more than my share of pet owners who asked me, “Is this normal? Why do I feel so guilty? Is this anger I’m feeling toward the death of my dog what every owner goes through?” The truth is, since grief is such a personal experience, not every owner is going to feel the same thing, but it is perfectly natural to grieve over your pet, and there are several emotions that are usually common to most owners.

Many pet owners feel shame or that they are grieving “too hard” for their pet, and this is usually because a lot of other people will tell them that it was “only an animal” and that it wasn’t as if a person died. However, a dog or cat can play a very important part of a person’s life, whether they were a treasured children’s pet or an elderly person’s only companion. Pet owners should never be made to feel guilty about their grief and if possible, they should talk to other pet owners who have lost their animals and who can offer support and comfort. Pet loss forums and message boards are safe havens for grieving owners who want to talk to others who are dealing with the same kinds of loss.

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Other owners have asked me about the anger they feel over their pet’s death, especially if it was young and died due to accident or illness. Anger is a normal part of any grieving process, and part of that anger is because in most cases, the owner was helpless to stop the animal from dying. The most important thing is that owners work through that anger and talk about their feelings, especially if their anger stems from guilt. It is difficult to accept any pet’s death, but if it was due to an accident, many owners are left with massive feelings of anger and guilt and have a difficult time forgiving themselves. It may take time, but the important thing is to talk about it, either to a friend or a counselor, so that they can take the first steps and grieve in a healthy way and begin the healing process.

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