Your pet is more than just a companion — they are a member of your family. They are your best friend and your sidekick, sticking with you through thick and thin. Their loss is devastating, and if you’re experiencing a deep sense of grief, you’re not alone. It’s natural to feel the same emotions you might feel with the loss of any other family member, like an aunt or grandparent.
Yet when you’re grieving the loss of a pet, it can seem like the world doesn’t understand. Life carries on without you. Your coworkers may expect you to quickly come back to work. Friends and family may not want to talk about it. Some people may even tell you, “Just get a new pet.” But it isn’t that easy.
Whether you’re grieving the sudden loss of a pet or were by their side through illness and old age — which is painful in itself — you’re probably experiencing the stages of grief: shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance. In order to move on, you need to process your emotions in a healthy way. Here are 9 ways to grieve the loss of a pet.
1. Share happy memories
Don’t bury your emotions or ignore them. Talk to your friends, family, and significant other. Ask them to share their favorite memories. Remember your pet’s quirky habits and mischievous antics. If you’re interested in helping someone grieve the loss of a pet, talking about happy times you shared or sending sympathy cards with written memories is one of the simplest ways to do so.
2. Hold a funeral or memorial
Grieving after the loss of a pet involves many of the same feelings as the loss of a human, and it can also involve the same rituals. Some pet owners choose to hold a funeral or memorial service, whether they cremate their pet or bury them. Invite close friends and family — or even your dog’s friends — to celebrate your pet’s life.
3. Join a pet loss support group
Pet loss support groups are an excellent way to feel like you are not alone. As pets become part of our families more and more, these groups are becoming common. You can find a local group, as well as counselors who specialize in grieving the loss of a pet, through websites like Pet Loss Grief Support and the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement. There are also chat rooms and message boards that may be helpful.
4. Have a portrait painted
No matter where you live, you likely have local artists nearby who would be honored to paint a portrait of your pet. Typically, you will send them a photo and they’ll paint based on that. There are also artists who can create realistic prints on canvas from photo files. You can often choose from different styles and backgrounds for a portrait that suits your pet.
5. Donate to a charity
Many charities will accept a donation in your pet’s name and may post the donation on social media or provide other recognition. If you’re helping someone grieve the loss of a pet, sending condolences and including a donation to a charity in their pet’s name can be an incredibly meaningful and generous gesture.
If you’re grieving the sudden loss of a pet, you may crave that close companionship, but not feel ready to adopt again. Volunteering at an animal shelter or with a rescue specializing in your pet of choice — there are even rescues for birds and reptiles — can help you make sense of your pet’s death, assign it meaning and find closure.
7. Create a yearly ritual
You probably celebrated your pet’s birthday or adoption day during their lifetime, so why not continue your tradition after they pass? Visit their favorite hiking trail, beach, or dog park, make their favorite food, or volunteer in their honor. Look at photos and videos or gather your other pets and bake them special treats. There are countless ways to remember your beloved pet.
8. Memorialize their ashes
Pet cremation is affordable and flexible, providing owners with many different options for grieving the loss of a pet. You can choose a pet urn and hang their identification tags on it, then place it on a shelf with photos and other mementos. You can turn it into cremation jewelry or glass art for a beautiful conversation piece. Or you can scatter the ashes in a place your pet loved to visit.
9. Plant a tree
If you’d like a beautiful place you can visit in remembrance of your pet, planting a tree or spreading their ashes in a memorial forest is a distinctive and beautiful option. In our memorial forests, you can even choose to share a tree with your beloved pet.
Grieving after the loss of a pet is an emotional time, and the way you memorialize your pet is deeply personal. Just know that what you’re feeling is normal, and whatever you choose will be the right choice.