7 Tips for Pet Grief After Losing Your Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

Discover helpful tips and memorial ideas to honor the life of your emotional support animal (ESA) after their passing. Learn how to cope with this unique pet grief and find support during your bereavement.

Katie Abendroth

4/5/20245 min read

pet grief emotional support animalpet grief emotional support animal

If you're reading this, chances are you've recently experienced the loss of your soulmate pet, or emotional support animal (ESA).

Whether your ESA was a dog, cat, bird, or any other species, the pain of losing a companion who is always by your side you can feel like an emotional amputation. Please know that you're not alone in this journey and there is hope on the other side.

I understand the profound bond that forms between humans and animals, having owned 7 dogs to date. They're more than just pets; they're loyal friends, sources of comfort, and unwavering cuddle buddies through life's ups and downs.

The loss of such a significant presence can leave a void in your heart, but it would be more concerning if you did not feel grief after such a loss.

Keep reading for 7 tips to begin the healing process after the death of your emotional support animal.

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How to Cope with Grief of Losing your ESA

  1. Allow Yourself to Grieve
pet grief emotional support animal
pet grief emotional support animal

It sounds basic, but expressing your natural grief response is the healthiest way you can process this pain.

It's okay to feel a whirlwind of emotions – sadness, anger, guilt, and even relief if your pet was in pain.

For an emotional support animal (ESA) who has supported you, fear may be a common feeling. Give yourself permission to mourn without self-judgment or criticism.

  1. Celebrate Their Life to the Public

After the initial shock of loss, start to pivot your energy by considering how to celebrate the life of your companion.

A memorial service, or permanent tribute like a tattoo helps many people feel connection with their pet and offers a reason to talk to others about their pet.

Create a digital photo album filled with your favorite memories together and share on social media. Share anecdotes and funny stories with friends and family who understand the depth of your bond.

Pet Grief After Losing Your Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
Pet Grief After Losing Your Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
pet grief emotional support animal
pet grief emotional support animal
  1. Connect with Others

Surround yourself with understanding and compassionate individuals who can empathize with your grief.

Whether it's friends, family members, support groups, or online communities like our Instagram page @hope_after_pet_loss, connecting with others who have experienced similar loss can provide immense comfort and validation.

If you are seeking community or feel isolated, consider our private Hope After Pet Loss support group. Each month we will have two live meetings, weekly resources for members only, and a private Facebook page to share stories and support. Learn more here.

  1. Create a Memorial
7 Tips for Pet Grief After Losing Your Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
7 Tips for Pet Grief After Losing Your Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

Consider honoring your ESA's memory in meaningful ways. Planting a tree or flowers in their honor, creating a memorial plaque, or making a donation to an animal charity in their name can serve as a tribute to the love and joy they brought into your life.

I maintain a Memory Wall on this website, where you can order a lasting memorial for your pet. Our Resources page has a collection of pet memorial and grief support items that may comfort you.

7 Tips for Pet Grief After Losing Your Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
7 Tips for Pet Grief After Losing Your Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
  1. Practice Self-Care

Self-care is crucial, but what works for you? This may take some exploring if your ESA what a source of emotional comfort.

During stressful times, try self-care options like bubble baths, cooling eye masks, meditative coloring, yoga, and massage. Be gentle with yourself and think about what you would suggest to a friend.

The first week of grief, you may feel extremely tired. If you can take off work, allow yourself to sleep in and get extra rest. Your body is working hard to cope with grief.

After the first week, however, get outside. Nature baths or long walks outside can help you connect with the world and release stress-relieving hormones to support your grief journey.

pet grief emotional support animal
pet grief emotional support animal
  1. Extend Your Healing Time

Healing from the loss of any pet is a gradual process, but more profound with an emotional support animal (ESA). There's no timeline for grief, so navigates this at your own pace.

Begin to look for signs from your departed pet, which many people report shortly after a close pet dies.

Do not rush into getting another pet. Embrace the highs and lows of your journey and trust that with time, the pain will become more bearable.

  1. Get Professional Counseling
7 Tips for Pet Grief After Losing Your Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
7 Tips for Pet Grief After Losing Your Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

Speaking to a counselor or professional therapist, is essential if you have lost an ESA. You're struggling to cope with your grief or finding it difficult to function in your daily life, don't hesitate to seek professional support.

Consider asking for pet bereavement leave from work if needed.

After the Loss of Your ESA

7 Tips for Pet Grief After Losing Your Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
7 Tips for Pet Grief After Losing Your Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

Remember, the love and bond you shared with your emotional support animal will forever remain in your heart.

While the pain of their absence may never fully fade, with time and support, you will learn to carry their memory with you as a source of comfort and strength.

Know that you're not alone in your grief. Reach out to those who care about you, honor the life of your ESA, and celebrate their legacy by living a life filled with love and compassion.

hope after pet loss coping with pet griefhope after pet loss coping with pet grief
My updated e-book, Coping with Pet Loss Grief, offers grief education for different types of pet loss, action checklists to start moving forward, and expanded journal prompts to reflect and heal.

Resources for Pet Bereavement

Remember, treat yourself as you would a cherished friend. Losing an ESA is more than a pet, it is a loss of security and connection.

Loving your pet is a gift and the grief is but one thread in your beautiful tapestry.

Sometimes the only way past grief is to go through it, but you are not alone.

memorial items Emotional Support Animal (ESA)memorial items Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
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