8 Types of Grief: Finding Hope as You Cope

All grief is not the same. There are at least 8 types of grief. Understanding where you are after pet loss can help you deal with pet grief.

Katie Abendroth

4/1/20245 min read

types of grieftypes of grief

8 Types of Grief After Pet Loss...and What To Do About It

Losing a pet you have loved for years can be an incredibly difficult experience. Pets are a part of our families, providing us with unconditional love and loyalty.

How you cope depends, in part, on what type of grief you are experiencing. Keep reading to learn about 8 types of grief that may impact you...and what to do about it.

When they pass away, it leaves a deep void in our lives. If you are visiting this page, you know pet grief is real, but did you know there are actually at least 8 types of grief? You can do a deeper dive at this useful website for more information.

Understanding different aspects of grief and finding healthy ways to cope is one of the most proactive strategies you can use to navigate through the pain and find hope after pet loss.

1. Normal Grief

"Normal" grief is the most common of the 8 types of grief experienced after losing a pet.

It involves feelings of sadness, longing, and a sense of emptiness. It is important to allow yourself to grieve and acknowledge the pain you are feeling.

Give yourself permission to cry, reminisce about the happy moments you shared with your pet, and express your emotions.

It can take up to a year for normal grief to dissipate, or soften, although your grief may not fully disappear.

2. Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief occurs when you know that your pet's passing is going to happen in the near future, such as when they have a terminal illness.

Although common, this type of grief can be challenging as you may experience a mix of emotions, including sadness, anxiety, and guilt.

Out of the 8 types of grief, this can be exhausting as you remain in a heightened state of alertness or "fight or flight" while coping with this stage.

Seek support from friends, family, or support groups during this time. Talking about your feelings and fears can help alleviate some of the emotional burden.

3. Complicated Grief

Complicated grief is characterized by intense and prolonged feelings of grief that do not seem to lessen over time. It may involve feelings of anger, guilt, or a sense of detachment from others.

If you find yourself unable to cope with your pet's loss or if your grief significantly impacts your daily life, you must seek professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in grief and loss.

4. Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief refers to the type of grief that is not openly acknowledged or socially supported.

Losing a pet can sometimes be downplayed or dismissed by others who do not understand the bond you shared. This is especially true for owners who identify as male in Western society. This is similar to ambiguous grief which is described here.

It is important to find a supportive online communities, or seek out pet loss support groups where you can share your feelings without judgment.

Surrounding yourself with people who understand and validate your grief can be immensely helpful.

5. Secondary Losses

When a pet passes away, we often experience secondary losses that compound our grief.

These losses can include changes in daily routines, loss of companionship, or the absence of their unconditional love. I have written previously about the loss of identity I experienced after rehoming a pet. It is crucial to acknowledge and mourn these secondary losses as well.

Finding ways to honor your pet's memory, such as creating a memorial or participating in activities that remind you of them, can provide comfort during this time.

6. Collective Grief

Collective grief occurs when multiple individuals or a community mourns the loss of a pet together.

This can happen in situations where a pet was well-known or had a significant impact on a community. It can also occur within a family unit. K-9 trooper dogs are one example.

Sharing your grief with others who are experiencing the same loss can create a sense of unity and support.

7. Chronic Grief

Chronic grief is a type of grief that persists for an extended period, often lasting longer than expected.

It can be challenging to move forward and find hope when you are stuck in a state of chronic grief.

Grief counseling or therapy can provide you with the tools needed to navigate through this type of grief and get "unstuck." Remember that healing takes time, and it is okay to ask for help.

8. Traumatic Grief

Traumatic grief occurs when a pet's loss is sudden, unexpected, or accompanied by a traumatic event.

It can lead to intense feelings of shock, disbelief, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. This is especially true for highly sensitive people (HSPs) or empaths.

If you are experiencing traumatic grief, it is crucial to reach out to a mental health professional who specializes in trauma or PTSD therapy. They can guide you through the healing process and help you cope with the emotional aftermath.

Finding Hope

Losing a pet is a painful experience that nearly all owners must face. But there are ways to cope and find hope in the midst of grief.

Here are some strategies that can help:

1. Allow Yourself to Grieve

Give yourself permission to grieve and express your emotions. It is okay to cry, feel sad, and miss your pet.

Acknowledging your grief is an essential step towards healing and even tears move you forward.

2. Seek Support

Do not isolate yourself. Reach out to friends, family, or support groups who can provide a listening ear and understanding.

Sharing your feelings with others who have experienced pet loss can be incredibly comforting.

3. Create a Memorial

Honoring your pet's memory can bring a sense of closure and comfort.

Consider creating a memorial, such as a photo album, a personalized keepsake, or planting a tree in their memory.

4. Take Care of Yourself

During this difficult time, it is crucial to prioritize self-care, but this is usually the first thing we let go.

I write often about self-care because it is essential to healing and lowering your cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

Ideas that helped me include journaling, coloring, exercise, yoga, meditation, and nature walks. What brings you peace?

5. Connect with a Counselor

If your grief becomes overwhelming or significantly impacts your daily life, do not hesitate to seek professional help.

A therapist or counselor who specializes in grief or PTSD can provide guidance and during this challenging time.

6. Honor your Pet's Life

Instead of focusing on the loss, try to honor your pet's life going forward.

Celebrate their life by talking about them often, retelling funny or happy stories.

Volunteer or donate to an animal organization where you can put your energy towards helping other animals and connect with other pet lovers. I started volunteering with Canine Companions as a way to give back without adopting a new pet just yet.

With the support of loved ones and healthy coping strategies, you can navigate through the grief of losing a pet one day at a time.

7.Join a support group

If you are seeking community and connection, or feel like nobody understands your pain, consider joining the Hope After Pet Loss support group.

This investment in your healing is all about community. We will meet twice per month over zoom, share support over a private Facebook page, and members will receive weekly resources. Learn more here.

You are not alone. Keep swimming, my friends.

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