Coping with the loss of a pet


Boa Baker
April 2018 – June 2018


 The death of a loved one can be one of the most painful experiences. However, we get through these times with the help of friends and other family members who extend their deepest regrets through quality time, sympathy cards and prayer.

These are all ways to actively show love, sympathy, support and also help the person through their grieving process. However, do people keep the same energy when it’s the pet of a friend, coworker, or family member? Probably not.   

While waiting to be united with my newborn pup during the six week period after its birth, I found myself planning parties, buying doggy clothes and even puppy proofing my apartment … almost as if I was preparing for a child.

So needless to say, the loss of my nine-week old pet came as a total surprise to me. But not nearly as much as the questions and emotions  that accompanied it. 

Dealing with the emotional effects of losing a pet is a conversation that’s long overdue.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the author “On Grief and Grieving: Finding  the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss,”  presents a grief model that includes : shock/denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. All of which can be applied during the loss of a pet.

There is no timetable for mourning a loss. Those who have animals as their only source of companionship may find it harder to handle than the owners of a family dog. Both scenarios can provoke emotional and physical responses.

Emotional responses may include an inability to accept the loss, insomnia, loss of appetite, anger, guilt and depression. Behavioral responses may include the inability to detach from your normal routine of having a pet, or being unable to remove its possessions.

Nevertheless, Americans today have expanded the norm for pet ownership. Our society has adopted pets as extended family and begun an era of dog birthday celebrations, photo shoots, activity contests, and much more.

Pet ownership has become more sentimental then ever before. Coping with its death appropriately is hugely important. So here are some things you can do to help.

Create a photo album of your pet, hold a small memorial service and send out death announcements with a picture to family and friends can all be aides that can comfort you in the early stages of intense grief.

Although losing a beloved pet is not the same as losing a human loved on — it comes pretty damn close.