Dealing with the death of a pet

5 min read

Things to remember after losing a pet

  • It’s completely healthy and normal to grieve the death of a pet just as you would grieve any other loss.

  • Finding the right way to memorialize your pet can help with the grief.

  • Options can include writing an obituary, donating to a shelter, or keeping a token of them with you.

Losing a pet is a very difficult experience in many people’s lives. You’re not just losing a beloved companion, but a best friend and family member as well. For many people with pets, it can feel just as painful as losing a person. No matter what anyone might say to you, the pain, sadness, and emptiness you feel is very valid. It’s a real and devastating loss that deserves to be respected just as much as any other loss we experience in our lifetime.

However, it’s also a loss that’s inevitable. Pets generally don’t live as long as their caretakers, and losing them is something we sign up for when we bring a pet into our lives. To love and be loved by them is an extraordinary gift, and for people with pets, it’s a gift worth having, no matter how fleeting it is.

The death of a pet can also be very complicated. In some cases, if your pet is sick or suffering from pain due to old age, you can find yourself in the very emotional position of having to recognize what quality of life means for them. You have to ask yourself: Do I let them go, easing their pain, or do I hang on, to ease my own? Only you can make this decision.

The spectrum of emotions that come with losing a companion that played such a big part in your life can be heart-wrenching; it can even interfere with your ability to function in daily life, and that’s OK. It’s completely healthy and normal to grieve the death of a pet just as you would grieve any other loss. One should not feel ashamed or guilty at grieving the loss of an animal family member simply because they’re not human. A life is over and they’re not coming back; grief is the natural response to such a thing. 

Try to feel your pain as deeply and fully as you can, rather than trying to deny it or push it down. It will be hard, and sometimes you’ll miss them so much you may feel like the hurt won’t end. But the more you let yourself feel your feelings, the more that pain will be transformed into love for them, and thankfulness for the memories you have together and the joy they brought into your life.

Memorializing your pet

How you choose to memorialize your pet and celebrate their life after they are gone is a very personal decision. The bond between human and animal is a strong one, and it’s only natural to want to honor that love and their memory in a way that’s as unique as that bond you shared. And finding the right way to memorialize them can help with the grief, reminding you that while they may no longer physically be a part of your life, their memory will linger forever.

Write an obituary

Penning an obituary for your pet, one that you can save and even frame or mat later, can be a very therapeutic part of the grieving process. Some people choose to keep this obituary to themselves, while others share it with family and friends. It’s a way not just to highlight how much your pet meant to you, but to share details about them—their personality, their favorite toys, and so many other memories that you want to share and never forget. In recent years, people have turned to social media where they are able to announce the passing of their pet and share an obituary.

The spectrum of emotions that come with losing a companion that played such a big part in your life can be heart-wrenching.

Alternatively, you can write a poem about your pet to have framed. Or have one written: There are poets out there who can help you out with the perfect memorial poem for a fee.

Make a donation in their name

Whether or not your pet came from a shelter, making a financial donation in their name to the ASPCA or a smaller shelter can be a wonderful way to honor their life. You’re supporting other animals by providing for them while they wait for their forever home. It may not be a tangible memorialization, but making shelter life a little easier for other animals is a tremendous gift to make in the name of the pet you loved so dearly.

Memorial jewelry

For people who wear jewelry that they never take off, a special piece can feel like the perfect memorialization. When it comes to memorializing your pet through jewelry, you have a few options. You can have a necklace or bracelet made with their name on it. Or, if you prefer, a mold of their tooth or snout can be made into a wearable charm. There’s even an option to have your pet’s ashes, if you had them cremated, turned into a lab-created diamond.

Plant new life

If your pet had a favorite spot in the yard, planting a tree or flowers in that space is a beautiful way to memorialize them now the spot has become empty with their passing. As the tree grows or the flowers blossom in the spring, you’ll forever be reminded of why it’s there and your everlasting love for your pet.

Opening your heart and loving an animal is one of the most beautiful experiences human beings have. Just having them in your life is an honor. While these are just a handful of ways people memorialize their pets, they aren’t the only ones. Look inside your heart and trust your instincts. You’ll know the best way to memorialize your pet so that their memory stays with you forever ●