4 Practical Steps For Dealing With Pet Loss

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Dealing with the loss of a pet can be extremely difficult. Losing your pet no matter what species or age is one of the most difficult things a pet owner goes through. One of the first things to understand is that it is ok to grieve for your pet. 

The grieving process is a normal part of being a human that has experienced loss. Also understanding that the grieving process looks different for each individual is important as well.  Kübler-Ross’s theory on grief is that there are 5 main stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. When going through these 5 different stages of grief people progress at different speeds. Some people will move through the different stages pretty quick but for others the process can take time. If you would like more information about the 5 stages of grief I encourage you to visit this Healthline Article about the stages of grief that has a really good breakdown.

While understanding the stages of grief can help some there is a different model that talks about the Four Basic Tasks in Adapting to Loss which was created by Psychologist J. William Worden. The four basic tasks in adapting to loss are: accepting the reality of loss, experiencing pain of grief, adjusting to the environment, and redirecting emotional energy. Let’s dive in to these 4 tasks and ideas on how to apply them to the loss of your pet.

Accepting the Reality of Loss

At first it can be difficult to accept that your pet has passed. Intellectually you understand that they are no longer with you but emotionally it can be difficult to accept that reality. If you are not careful you can stay in a stage of denial which won’t allow you to move forward. Accepting the reality of loss can be difficult but acknowledging it moving forward can help you to move forward. Accepting the loss doesn’t me that you are moving on and forgetting about your pet.

One good step in the process could be doing something to memorialize your pet. You could even hold a memorial service with other people that also loved your pet. A memorial service could be as simple as getting everyone together and talking about your favorite memories while setting up a marker or spot to remember your pet. There are actually quite a few memorial options that can be found on Amazon that are not too expensive.

There are other options that are more costly but could be something you would like. One option for example is having your pet’s ashes turned into parting stones. Overall, your goal is to find something that can help you to accept your pet’s loss no matter what that something is. .

Experiencing Pain of Grief 

Allowing yourself to experience the pain of grief is critical in the healing process. Society will sometimes frown upon this step because other people can struggle to understand your pain. Don’t let anyone tell you, “Ohh it’s just a pet, go get yourself a new one”. People that say things like that don’t understand the emotional connection you have with your pet. You being afraid of what people may say can hinder this step in the process. Allow yourself to feel. Allow yourself to grieve. Allow yourself time to work through your loss. Don’t feel pressured to rush through this step or to try and cover it up.

Some helpful things to do this step could be: creating a photo album, writing a song, writing a letter to your pet, or even going on a walk that your pet loved. These actions can help you to process your thoughts and to experience

Seeking out a support group can also help you to work through the pain. A good support group can allow you to talk about your pet and discuss how you feel without your pet in your life.

Adjusting your Environment and Routine

When you have a major loss in your life, sometimes you have to begin the process of changing your environment and your routine.

If you have had your pet for a long time you have inevitably built a routine. Part of your routine could be daily going for a walk with your dog after work or playing with your cat. You may need to make changes to your routine to help adjust your normal routine. So instead of taking your dog on a walk you maybe could go to the gym to work out.

Adjusting your environment can also help you. If your pet had a normal sleeping spot or a favorite toy, you may want to rearrange your house a little or donate their toys. While this in itself can be hard, it will allow you to begin healing.

Find an enduring connection

One of the final tasks is finding an enduring connection with your pet. You can create a photo album of all of your favorite memories with your pet. Another idea is to begin volunteering at a local pet shelter in honor of your pet or even make a donation to a local pet rescue. No matter what your connection is, make sure it is meaningful to you.


Overall, the process of grieving your pet’s loss is something that is unique to each individual. One important thing to remember is you do have to grieve. You can’t just ignore it and hope it goes away because the pain will hit you when you least expect it. Grieving can help you move on from focusing on the sad part of losing your pet to the happier part of remembering all of the fun you had together.

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