How to Cope After Losing a Pet

Losing a pet can be just as devastating and painful as any other loss.

Every kind of grief comes with its own unique difficulties. However, many people find it hard to fully process losing an animal. They often feel pressured to remind themselves of the good times and move on quickly. Even loved ones who want to be supportive may respond naively by asking about replacement pets too soon.

But your grief is a real experience, and you deserve to honor your feelings. Here are some gentle reminders.

Let Go of Timelines

Grief doesn’t move on a prescribed, linear path. Instead, your feelings will ebb and flow with their intensity, and you may experience any combination of sadness, anger, shock, and relief.

Most importantly, try to be mindful of self-imposed judgments. There are no specific rules for when you should “move on” or “heal.” However, by accepting how you feel, you practice self-compassion and honor the relationship you shared with your pet.

In addition, pressuring yourself can jeopardize this process. Trying to avoid grief may coincide with delayed or inhibited grief. In other words, you can’t sidestep your feelings. Trying to do so only tends to make them stronger.

Anticipate (And Accept) Different Reactions

After losing a pet, there’s a good chance everyone in your family will grieve differently. It’s important to remind yourself that nobody’s feelings are inherently right or wrong.

For example, young children cannot comprehend the magnitude of death’s permanence. They may ask you several times where your animal is. After you tell them, they may shrug it off and appear disinterested.

In addition, your surviving pets will likely have reactions. Many dogs exhibit grief and mourning after another dog dies- you may observe increased clinginess, behavioral problems, lethargy, or loss of appetite.

Most of all, regardless of the reactions, aim to be compassionate and supportive. You wouldn’t want someone judging you for how you feel.

Build a Tangible Legacy

Even though your pet is no longer alive, you can still make an effort to honor them. Creating an animal legacy can be an important part of grief work. You can do this by:

  • making a scrapbook, photobook, or other physical pieces of art with photos of them
  • donating to a charity in their name
  • putting all their beloved toys and collar in a special box
  • planting a garden or tree in their favorite part of the yard

That said, it’s also perfectly acceptable if you don’t feel pulled to build this legacy. Your grief is yours, and you don’t have to do something that doesn’t feel authentic to your well-being.

Consider Moving Physical Memories

You may not have realized how much of a presence your pet had in the home until they died.

It might be painful to pass the empty dog bowl in the kitchen or see your cat’s favorite toy on the living room floor. If these reminders torment you, it’s okay to put them away. You don’t have to discard them entirely, but you can temporarily move them.

If you do feel ready to let them go (and they’re still in decent condition), consider donating them to another pet owner or animal shelter. You’ll likely experience some relief knowing someone else will cherish those precious items.

Trust You’ll Know When You’re Ready for Another Pet

If you intend to get another pet, you may feel torn on deciding the best timing. And if you ask several people what they think, you will undoubtedly receive several different answers. With that in mind, it’s usually a good idea to avoid acting impulsively during acute grief. You don’t want to rush into things before you feel prepared. You also don’t want to undermine another family member’s grief process. Ideally, if you live with others, consider making the choice together.

Remember that no pet will ever replace the one you lost. Each animal comes with its own beautifully unique personality.

There is no universal answer for getting a new addition to the home. Only you can feel when the timing feels right.

Connect With Other Grieving Pet Owners

In-person or online groups or forums can help you feel supported during this time.

Some groups are peer-led, and others are facilitated by a counselor or therapist. Most people are simply invited to share their feelings and honor their pets with like-minded pet owners. If you can’t find a group near you, try looking on social media platforms like Reddit or Facebook.

Seeking Therapy After Losing a Pet

Losing a pet represents a genuine and painful loss. Grief therapy offers support, reassurance, and a roadmap for healing. Together, we can honor your pet’s role in your life, and you will have a dedicated space for safe mourning.

I am here to help you during this vulnerable and sad time. Contact me today to get started.


4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

Got Questions?
Send a Message!

By submitting this form via this web portal, you acknowledge and accept the risks of communicating your health information via this unencrypted email and electronic messaging and wish to continue despite those risks. By clicking "Yes, I want to submit this form" you agree to hold Brighter Vision harmless for unauthorized use, disclosure, or access of your protected health information sent via this electronic means.