Pet Loss

Mourning the loss of your pet companion

Sadly, everyone who cares for a pet will one day face the illness, old age or passing of their beloved animal friend. It is as natural and necessary to grieve for the loss of a pet as it is for any loved one who die. And it is important to have compassion and support in one’s time of grief.

I have 7 cats, the youngest 3 years old and the oldest 13. Plus a puppy of 2 years old. They are all my furry children, my pet companions. I love animals and know when that day comes and they will not be in my life I will have to deal with my grief.

Since writing about grief my eldest cat Lulu passed away. Her death came suddenly. In the morning she was running around, eating and purring, and the next time I saw her she could barely walk and breathing heavily, my husband had to carry her into our house. We sat with her as she died in my arms. As I cradled her in my arms I was remembering her 14 years ago as a tiny black ball of fur, we came full circle, from receiving her and then releasing her back to the earth.

Lulu was the light of my life, my comfort and unconditional loving furry companion. She found her way into my arms when she was a tiny kitten she had been poisoned, including her mother and siblings who died and although at the time I was highly allergic to cats at that moment I knew she needed to be in my life and it was time for me to overcome my allergies and asthma, which I did.

I have been mourning Lulu for the last two weeks, and in the beginning I felt a hole in my heart, as time has passed and I have allowed myself to grieve and slowly I am able to remember her with so much joy and love, as my heart mends I realize how truly blessed I was to have her in my life. What helped me to heal was allowing myself to cry, to share my story on Facebook, and talking with friends, burying her in my backyard and saying goodbye, having a special pendant necklace made with her photo, so I can keep her close to me and remember her unconditional love and I plan on doing a painting of her.

Am I crazy to hurt so much?

Grief over the loss of a pet is normal and natural. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s silly, crazy, or overly sentimental to grieve. During the years you spent with your pet (even if they were few) it became a significant and constant part of your life. It was a source of comfort and companionship, of unconditional love and acceptance, of fun and joy.

So don’t be surprised if you feel intense loss of such a relationship.

Humans mourning animals however, often lack many of these supports for a loss which may be among the most significant of their lives. No one brings you a special food; your boss expects you back at work two days later ( if even allowing that) your family begins to worry if your sadness lingers beyond a few weeks.

You may run into people, even close friends who don’t understand your grief, and who may tell you that it is “silly” or “inappropriate” to grieve over the loss of an animal. After all it was “just a dog or cat” Keep in mind that many people have simply never had a close relationship with an animal of any kind.

Is there something wrong that I am grieving so deeply?

Shouldn’t I be “over it” by now? Factors that determine how and how long we may grieve depend on the depth intensity duration and significance if your bond with your animal friend. Our minds and hearts have their own timetable for healing. If the loss of your animal friend followed a series of other losses, if your life is lacking support and activities; if you are homebound, recently relocated, newly single again, unwell or disconnected from other important people; if your animal companion anchored your day that now feels directionless, recovery may take more time.

Your first task is to take care of yourself.

Locking away grief doesn’t make it go away. Express it. Take all the time you need in grieving your loss. Let yourself feel, write down your feelings, cry, be angry, feel your feelings whatever they may be, call a supportive friend.

Sometimes talking to a friend, partner or family member is not enough.  Support through counseling can help you receive the validation and understanding about the relationship you had with your pet companion. After all, it is the unconditional love that we receive from our pet that often leaves emptiness in our heart when they are no longer in our life. Together, I will honor your pet companion and explore ways for you to heal and feel validated again.