When The Worst Happens – How to Cope With The Loss of Your Pet


All of the sudden you walk into the door and there is emptiness, you see no pet there to greet you curling around your legs, wagging his tail, attempting to please you, The one who sits at your feet or curls up on your lap with no judgment at all.  As a Psychologist, I said to a friend “listening and sharing is important, we all need someone to share our thoughts with; animals listen with no judgment at all.just a look and sit at your feet”.  He asked me “can I teach his wife to do that”?  The pet does not talk back, and may be more responsive then your spouse or date.

You spend years with the animal that knows your routine, your habits and adjusts to them. Often you have raised them as a pup and kitten and watched them grow up, or you take in a pet that is older and needs attention. The pet becomes part of your family.  We take the responsibility to make sure our pet is feed, walked, watered, played with and in most cases taken are of.  We provide the basic needs and then we become emotionally attached to our pet.  Kind of, what we do for our friends, our children or other children just to be there to take care of them and we get something back in return. Yet, unlike friends and children who grow up the pet is always there and needs to be taken care of.


Pets are therapeutic to all of us.  They offer a comfort with no conditions.  You do not have to please a pet because they please you with no demands.  They will purr and snuggle, growl and play.


Therefore, the loss of a pet is still “grief and loss”.  The grieving process comes in stages; loneliness, and depression such as “I miss my pet”.

Here are some suggestions to sooth your heart over the loss of your beloved four-legged friend / family member:

– Crying is welcome – Don’t pent up any feelings of sadness inside. Let them out and cry as much as you need to. Crying is therapeutic and it processes emotion.

– Help out with a local pet shelter – Being around animals in need can not only temporarily help fill the void left by the loss of your pet but, you’ll efforts will make a difference in the lives of animals in great need.

"Tigger" reaches his paws out to touch volunteer Devin Dinsmore, 16, at Cat Tales Rescue in Norton Shores. Dinsmore, along with her whole family, has been volunteering at the cat rescue shelter for four years. Cat Tales Rescue is located at 215 Farr Rd. Date shot: 8/7/09

– Temporarily take in a pet until a permanent home is found – If there is an abundance of love in your heart for animals, give one a home that better than a pet shelter.


– Start a new activity you have wanted to do after work – Keep your mind occupied as much as possible so time can slowly heal your heart.

– Get together for dinner with your friends – Be around as many positive people as possible as their company will raise your spirit.

– Work with the nursing homes, Hospice and Children’s hospitals that take a pet in to give them comfort.

Loosing a pet is a terrible experience, but we all need to put our grief aside and to keep going going. This doesn’t mean we forget them. We never do.

sad dog stare out window

By Dr. Wendy James

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