Dealing with the Loss of a Pet? How to Cope After Losing Your Pet or ESA

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 16, 2021

loss of a pet with empty dog bowl and leashPet loss grief can leave you with feelings of sadness and loneliness. You may even feel guilty, ashamed or angry. Working through your feelings after the loss of a pet is essential.

We know it feels like losing a pet is the end of the world, but you can get through this! Follow this guide to start making positive steps through your grief.

Dealing with the Unexpected Loss of a Pet

The human-animal bond you have with your beloved pet is special. Losing a pet is losing a family member – it’s natural to feel grief.

When your pet’s death is unexpected, it’s very overwhelming. As pet parents, we take care of our fur babies. We spend an enormous amount of time with them, feeding, playing and caring for them.

To suddenly lose your pet can trigger deep feelings of grief. You may feel angry at yourself, or guilty– could you have done more to prevent this death?

The grieving process may seem difficult and painful, but it will give you time to deal with your emotions and answer the tough questions. Don’t be afraid to feel sad on your journey towards acceptance and resolution.

Coping After Losing a Pet with the Help of an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

Losing any pet is completely heart-breaking. No pet is “just a dog” or “just a cat”. You’ve lost a friend, a member of your family.

Getting another pet is not replacing your pet as they were unique and special in their own way, but an emotional support animal may help you deal with your loss. These animal companions provide emotional support. If you’re struggling with depression after the loss of your pet, have lost all enthusiasm to get out of the house, or just need someone to talk to, an ESA could help.

Not Just a Dog or Cat: Consider Joining a Free Pet Loss Support Group

Bottling up your grief and denying yourself time to grieve will only make things worse in the long run. Some people find they need to grieve alone, while others need the support of sympathetic friends and family during this difficult time.

When your pet is not just your best friend but your sole companion, your ESA or helper, it’s natural to feel very alone after their passing. Talking to other grieving pet owners can help.

CertaPet’s “Not Just a Dog or Cat” is an online pet grief support group that you can join and meet others who are dealing with the loss of a pet.

This group is a safe place to meet, talk to other pet owners or just listen to advice on coping with the loss of a pet. Don’t hesitate to join the group now for complete support and guidance when you need it.

The Difficult Time Before the Loss of a Dog: When You Know the Rainbow Bridge is Calling

owner losing a pet

Pet euthanasia is not easy to think about. But when your canine companion is suffering, it can be the kindest option for them.

Whether you call the humane society veterinarian to arrange euthanasia or settle down to provide the best end-of-life care possible, it’s natural to feel grief before they’ve passed away.

Besides dog painkillers, you should make sure your pooch is as comfortable as possible. Support them as best you can and know that you’re doing all you can to ease their passing.

Making Memories: Help Your Dog Live Their Best Life!

Knowing that you gave your dog all that you possibly could, will help tremendously when dealing with losing a pet. Those happy memories and good times spent with your doggo are something you can cherish for the rest of your life, and your dog’s final parting gift to you!

Losing a Pet is Like Losing a Family Member: Allow Yourself to Grieve

Not everyone understands what the loss of a pet really means. Not everyone can take pet bereavement leave from work or stop everything to grief fully.

But you must allow yourself to grieve pet loss and bereavement. Don’t bury your feelings under everyday tasks.

If you’re struggling to work through your emotions, a pet loss counselor could help.

What to Do When Your Dog Dies – There is No Protocol for Grief: It’s Different for Everyone

Some people go through stages of grief, while others feel it in waves. Your grief may even be triggered by events, sights or smells that remind you of your deceased pet.

When your pet dies, you may grieve for days or it may take years before you’re 100% feeling yourself again. But you will get through it! You should never feel ashamed, regardless of how you feel you need to grieve. What’s important is that you’re actively grieving the loss of your pet and dealing with your feelings.

Hold on to the Memories: Even Though it Hurts!

Having a ceremony and remembering all the good times and wagging tails can be the bright light that cuts through your grief. It can provide a moment of joy and relief from the pain.

family coping a loss of a dog with new dog in field

Memories can hurt in a bittersweet way, but it’s far better to have those happy memories than to never have had a pet at all!

A Loss of Pet or Loss of Dog Guilt: Let it Go!

It’s very easy to get caught up in feelings of guilt after the loss of a pet. It’s natural to feel guilty when wondering whether you could have done more for your pet. We forget all the good times and the good things we have done for our pets and purely focus on the negatives.

It can be hard to avoid this mindset when you begin grieving, but it’s important not to get stuck here! Work through your grief and you will start to let go of the pain and welcome back the happy memories.

Let People Who Care Know: Sympathy Messages and Condolence Messages

Keep it personal, if you can. Start with a simple condolence message:

“I’m so sorry for your loss and you have my support through this difficult time. We’ll all miss [pet name] greatly.”

Whether you send a simple text or a card, this is a gentle way to show your support while giving them space to grieve.

A New Pet is Not a Replacement: Consider Getting an ESA Letter for Your New Furry Friend!

If you simply replace your child’s pet with another, you’re not showing them that it’s okay to feel sad and grieve. Try age-appropriate books that explain pet grief or euthanasia for your children too.

You can’t just buy another companion animal to cover up your grief.

However, when the passing of your pet is traumatic or leading to depression, anxiety or even PTSD, an ESA is a good way to provide support. Sometimes a different kind of ESA animal can help – a calm and independent cat could become a good friend to talk to after the loss of a dog, without feeling like you’ve replaced your beloved pet.

Take the free, 5-minute pre-screening today to see if you qualify for your own emotional support animal.

Comforting Pet Loss Quotes for Pet Sympathy Cards

  • The bond with a dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth can ever be. Konrad Lorenz
  • If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them. Pam Brown
  • What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; All that we love deeply becomes a part of us. Helen Keller

The best quotes remind them of the unconditional love they shared with their pet and give them the strength to push forward through grief!

loss of pet, dog with angel wings

Where to Find the Pet Loss Support Group & Words From Pet Loss Owner

If you go to the pet loss support group form here, you can find the beginning steps!

And if you are a bit nervous to join, read about the licensed mental health clinical manager who runs the group therapy session and her own story with pet loss…

“My sweet Asher Ray, I can’t believe it’s been 3 years since I told you goodbye. I was afraid of what life would look like without you. I got you when I was 19 years old and we went through everything together. You helped me usher in the era of adulthood. Navigating college and life, moving from the west coast to the east, north to south, you always were my trusty co-pilot. Sometimes we were running to exciting new things, sometimes we were running away…You were there when I learned how to be a mother, you were my son’s first friend, you were there when my husband was deployed…you were always there. And then. You weren’t. I was afraid it would leave me broken, but it revitalized my faith. I realized that you were never just a dog, you were a part of my journey that may have never happened had I not had you placed in my life to keep the faith even when I had none in myself. You were with me through the lowest lows and highest highs. I miss you sweet pup, and I thank you for teaching me that love still exists in our most broken moments, that hope lives in loving others, and that faith begins in loving yourself.”

Common Questions on The Loss of a Pet

My dog died so how long will I feel pet grief?

Can an ESA help with pet grief?

Is it normal to feel guilty after a pet death?

What is the dog dying process and should I be in the room when it happens?

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