Pet Loss and Bereavement Services
Losing a pet is like losing a beloved member of the family. Grieving over this loss is normal and natural, and it is both an emotional and physical burden to bear. While the hurt of losing a pet never truly goes away, dealing with the grief does become easier over time.
On this page you will find helpful resources, including links to other pet loss and support websites, regarding what to expect when your pet is nearing the end as well as how to cope with the loss after he has passed. Information about euthanasia can be found on our Euthanasia page.
NorthPaws would like to compile a memorial page on our website commemorating our pets who have passed. By providing a place for our clients to share stories, photos, or poems of their pets, we aim to help each other along in the healing process. If you have something you would like to contribute, please email us.
Coping with the Loss of a Pet
Grieving over the loss of a pet is normal and natural. Your pet was a beloved part of your family, a source of joy and unconditional love, and a constant part of your life. It is understandable and expected that the loss of that relationship is difficult to cope with and that you may be experiencing mixed emotions that might include sadness, anger, selfishness, frustration, or even guilt.
It is important to not deny yourself any feelings you may be having, even if it feels wrong to have them. Anger, denial, guilt, or depression are all natural parts of the grieving process. It is ok to cry, just as it is ok to laugh a little. Many people find comfort in sharing fond memories of their pets with family and friends after their pet is gone. Especially for children, drawing pictures, creating a collage, or writing poems can also help after the loss of a pet. It is important to allow yourself time to acknowledge any feelings you may have over the loss of your pet. In order to truly cope, you cannot continually push those feelings away.
Feelings of guilt or anger are not uncommon, especially if your pet was lost due to an accident or sudden illness. It is important to remember, though, that it is impossible for us to control all aspects of our lives. It does not help to dwell on the "if only's" and "what ifs." The sooner you can acknowledge and let go of your anger or guilt, the sooner you will be able to start resolving your grief.
Many people also feel guilty when they notice periods of time in which they are "forgetting to grieve." They feel they should be grieving 24/7 and anything less is disloyal to their pet's memory. However, it is normal to allow yourself moments of happiness after your pet has passed. Learning to enjoy yourself again is a natural step in the healing process. Allow yourself to have some fun, and even laugh a little! On the other hand,
If you find yourself struggling with constant reminders of your pet during particular times of the day, try filling that time with another activity. Often, rearranging your schedule to fill those times can help you process your grief and make it easier to bear. If you have surviving pets at home, spend some extra time with them. They are likely grieving the loss as well and will appreciate the affection. Overall, remember that everyone's timetable is different and that only YOU know how you are feeling and what will help you cope.
Is my remaining pet depressed?
Animals can experience a period of grief just like humans after the death of a close companion. Many times, they also perceive our sadness or discomfort, which compounds any feelings they may be having. Common signs of animal grieving can include:
unwillingness to leave the owner alone or clinginess
changes in appetite or activity level
depression or lack of interest in normal activities
crying or unusual vocalizations
inappropriate urinations or defecations around the house
searching for the lost pet
You can often help your pet cope by spending extra quality time with them, going on walks, or playing special games. If any of these symptoms becomes severe, contact your veterinarian for specific recommendations.
How soon is too soon to get another pet?
There is no right or wrong timetable when it comes to getting a new pet. For some people, having a new pet was always part of the plan and the joy of loving another animal can help fill the emotional void left by your old pet. For others, the sense of loss is so great that it may take years to find the emotional strength for another animal. Despite what friends or family may tell you, only you will know when the time is right. Try casually browsing available animals when you feel ready. Wait for one to "speak" to you. If this fills you with sad memories, it is ok to wait.
Use caution if you find yourself drawn to pets that look just like your previous pet. Having a constant reminder of your old friend often makes it difficult for you to truly enjoy the new pet. Inevitably you will compare them to your old one as well.
Getting a new pet can ultimately help many people move forward, but everyone's timetable is different and you should give yourself plenty of time to personally deal with the loss first. It is difficult and often frustrating to build a new relationship if your emotions are still in turmoil over the loss of your previous pet.
It is not uncommon to feel some resentment over a new pet "taking the place" of the old one. However, these feelings are often an indication that it is too soon for you to get another pet. You should wait until you can look forward to loving a new companion without reminders of your old pet getting in the way. It is not disloyal to your old pet to get a new one, but it is unfair to bring a new pet into a house where the memory of the old pet is too fresh.
Getting a new pet can ultimately help many people move forward, but you should give yourself plenty of time to personally deal with the loss first. Remember, everyone's timetable is different. It is difficult and often frustrating to build a new relationship if your emotions are still in turmoil over the loss of your previous pet, especially if you feel some resentment over the new pet "taking the place" of the old one. When you feel ready for a new companion, it is often helpful to casually browse. A new pet will often find you.
Use caution if you find yourself drawn to pets that look just like your previous pet. Having a constant reminder of your old friend makes it difficult for you to truly enjoy the new pet, and inevitably you will compare them to your old one. It may be a sign that you are not emotionally ready to offer your love to another animal. Finally, do not allow feelings of disloyalty to the pet you lost to enter your mind. Offering your heart and home to another animal is not meant to replace your old pet.