7 Pet Grief Tips I Wish Someone Had Told Me Sooner

Losing your soulmate pet hurts, but there are science-backed strategies to find healing and hope. Find valuable insights for dealing with pet grief here.

Katie Abendroth


7 Grief Tips I Wish Someone Had Told Me Sooner7 Grief Tips I Wish Someone Had Told Me Sooner

Understand Pet Grief

Losing your soulmate pet is one of the hardest hurts that few people talk about. Most grief talk happens after the loss, not before, so it is hard to prepare for it.

If you are highly sensitive, or had a unique bond with your pet, grief feels even more profound due to the strong bonds we form. They are truly a family member.

Below I explain why pet grief hurts so much, and provide you 7 tips I wish I had learned sooner to navigate this journey.

Common Challenges with Pet Grief

After losing a family pet, you may feel profound sadness, guilt, and despair. I previously wrote about grief after rehoming a pet, and remember thinking that nobody seemed to understand the depth of my pain.

As a grieving pet parent, here are common challenges:

The Loss Doesn't Feel Real

Is it impossible to accept the reality of your pet’s death? You may still feel like you hear them behind you or catch a glimpse of a shadow that feels like your pet. You may dwell on memories, making it harder to move forward.

This is a normal part of grief, connected to shock, and is nothing to fear. It is simply neural connections at work, making associations you have had for years without realizing it.

Heightened Sensitivity

Everyday reminders of your pet, such as dog toys, beds, or familiar walking routes, can trigger intense emotional reactions.

When we rehomed our dog, just driving past the dog park made me burst into tears. This is also common and a normal grief reaction.

Relationship Challenges

Pet loss can strain relationships with family members or friends. If they do not grieve the same way, or don't understand your grief, try to be patient with each other.

If you have kids, or if you feel like your relationship is suffering, counseling at this point is an important step towards healing.

Fearing the Future

Your brain wants to protect you from feeling this level of pain again. As a result, it may be hard to bond with new pets, fearing the pain of future loss.

I recommend waiting at least 6 months before getting another pet after a profound loss, to give yourself time to get over the initial shock.

7 Tips for Coping with Pet Grief

1. Understand the Grief Cycle

Grief is not a straight line, but there are common patterns to grief. Understanding the stages of grief can help reduce your anxiety and fear while you process your emotions.

My e-book, Coping with Pet Loss Grief, explains grief patterns and offers action checklists and journal prompts to move forward. Learn more here.

You can use DISCOUNT code SAVE50 for half off the cover price.

2. Prepare for Intensity

Brace yourself. Pet owner grief may include feelings of PTSD if the loss was traumatic. Euthanasia is not always peaceful, and you may also struggle with this experience.

I started listening to audiobooks and podcasts, and found excellent grief resources I could listen to in the privacy of my car, since driving alone with my thoughts was often tough.

3. Create a Pet Memorial

Create a memorial for your pet, such as planting a tree, creating a collage, garden, or personalized keepsake. This serves as a tangible reminder of your pet.

Some pet owners choose to get a tattoo of their beloved pet, to have a consistent visual reminder of your love.

3. Find Support

I created this website and the page @hope_after_pet_loss on Instagram to support pet owners who are grieving. Find a safe space to connect with others and get tips for healing.

Other wonderful Instagram communities about pet loss are @stig_petbereavement, @8ightinfinity, @honoringouranimals, and @petlossdoctor.

You may also need a professional, licensed therapist. Earlier is better, so be proactive and find someone who will advise you as you grieve.

4. Connect

After a few days, resist the urge to isolate, stay in bed, or stop exercising. At least, that is my tendency! Reach out to fellow friends, online support groups, or a licensed therapist who can offer understanding.

If you feel like you have no one to talk to, sign up for my Hope After Pet Loss support group. Learn more here. If you want to try the first month, for a limited time use discount code HOPE50 for half off the first month.

This support group offers twice per month live meetings over zoom, a private facebook community, weekly updates, and regular discounts on products.

I also believe nature is healing. Get outside everyday. Listen to nature, bathe in nature walks, and slow down. Getting outside releases endorphins, which boost your mood.

5. Take Care of Yourself

Engage in activities that nurture your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, such as meditation, journaling, coloring, yoga, or nature baths. Go to a religious meeting if you are seeking spiritual guidance.

Sometimes getting through grief just means putting one foot in front of the other. If you work, go into the office even if you don't have to.

Fix your hair. Wear clean clothes. These basic self-care steps can feel hard when you are grieving, but are important to help you find your new normal.

6. Volunteer

Before you welcome a new pet, connect with your community. I started volunteering as a dog sitter for therapy dogs at Canine Companions for Independence to blend my love of speech therapy and dogs.

But you may decide to use your free time to volunteer in another capacity that doesn't involve pets.

Do not feel like you have to rush into getting another pet. Take this time to travel, exercise outside, and process your grief, before rushing to bring another animal home.

Respecting Pet Grief

Losing a beloved dog is a deeply personal experience. Respect your emotions, seek support from others, and engage in self-care.

These basics will help you put one foot in front of the other, so you can navigate the grieving process with resilience.

While the pain of loss may never fully disappear, you can find comfort in fond memories and the love shared with your soulmate pet. You are not alone in your grief, and there is hope after pet loss.

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