When It Comes to Losing a Pet We All Mourn Differently, And That’s OK
This is a companion piece to “Some of Us Can’t Handle Euthanasia, And That’s OK.” These pieces were written to emphasize the fact that we’re all individuals — and that the way we deal with death, loss & grief will vary greatly.
Some of us can put on a brave face and conquer anything after the loss of a pet, and some of us can’t. For those of us who have struggled to cope with the loss of a pet there’s one thing that’s certain: grief changes. One day may be horrible and the next a little less so, but then one little trigger can bring it back with a vengeance.
What works to deal with grief and loss for one person may or may not work for you, but please don’t ever feel that you’re grieving too much for a pet. They are part of the family, and their loss causes intense grief. Many of us have felt that way, and it’s important to realize you are not alone.
When it comes to losing a pet we all mourn differently, and that’s OK.
They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite. – Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince
Grief Might Make You Feel Completely Isolated
I know there’s the five famous stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression & acceptance), but not everyone goes through those. I know I certainly don’t.
My grief starts with a feeling of complete isolation. I’m never in denial – I know very well what just happened, but the tremendous sense of loss makes it impossible for me to feel like I can just “hang in there” and deal with situations in a normal matter.
It’s the weird, surreal like feeling of being disconnected from anything but grief – yet everyone else around you is just going on as usual – as if nothing has changed. But for you everything has changed.
Everyone else is laughing, telling jokes & going on like nothing happened while you’re unable to move past your loss. It’s happened to me many times, and that feeling of being alone and isolated from your “normal” world can make the pain ten times worse.
The difference is not about emotions, those are exactly the same, but my navigation through the loss and the day is completely different. – My GPS is Off: Oh Melvin
I can’t tell you that it’ll go away in 5 days, and I can’t tell you that it’s going to get better. But what I can tell you is that it will change. The feelings you have today may be different tomorrow, or they may be different in a month from now – but they will change.
I’d have great days followed by OK days, and then one little trigger would bring back all those feelings of grief in an instant. For me it was evenings that usually brought back those feelings of grief and isolation. For 10+ years I’d walked my dog Carter every evening, and now he was gone.
Maybe you’ve had similar feelings, and maybe not. We all deal with loss differently, and whether it’s for a human family member or pet please remember that your grief is real. It doesn’t matter if it fits into what others think of as normal – that grief is yours.
If You’re Having a Tough Time Dealing With the Loss Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with grief don’t be afraid to reach out to someone close that’s able to listen and not judge. Sometimes just having someone to share your feelings with can help, and it can make you feel less alone in your grief.
There are also support groups available for dealing with the loss of a pet. You can reach out and connect with others going through similar situations. It’s important to know that you’re not alone – that grief your feeling is real, and you’re completely right to be feeling it.
It’s an odd thing grief. We fear it, dismiss it, try and avoid it, occasionally have brushes with it, and most often times without warning, it invites itself into our lives. No welcome mat but it comes nonetheless. – Anatomy of a Grieving Dog Mom
Grief is a tough subject for people to deal with – both for those going through it and those that are trying to offer support. Although people generally have good intentions there are some people in your life that might not offer the kind of support that’s immediately helpful.
I’ve been told things like “why not just get another dog” or “it’s been a couple of weeks already.” Although they certainly didn’t mean anything negative by it those things hurt, and they made me more apt to grieve alone. Unfortunately grief isn’t the easiest of subjects to talk about, and those that try to offer support may end up saying something stupid.
No one really wants to see grief. No one really wants to talk about it. At least not after a certain “acceptable” point. Plus, all that grief talk is aimed at people grieving other people. There’s practically no wiggle room in that journey for grieving pets. The next day: “So, when are you going to get another dog?” – The Grief Chapter
Your Grief Will Change With Time
The bad news about losing a pet is that the pain stays for a long time. There isn’t a set number of tears or bad days before that you have to endure before it gets better. We all deal with it in our own ways, and for some of us it takes a long time to get back to a feeling of being somewhat ‘normal’ again.
What I can tell you is that what your feeling today will change. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week or maybe next month – but it will change. Grief is always changing. Some days it pops up as soon as we wake up, and others it might not rear it’s ugly head til bed time, but it’s always there in some capacity.
It might take a week, it might take 6 months, or it might take 6 years – but your grief will change. Until then please remember that you are not alone. Many of us have been there, and there’s plenty of people going through something similar right now. If you’re feeling lost don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to. – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, 25 Quotes About Losing a Dog
Jana Rade says
What changed things for me was discovering that the heart-to-heart connection lasts beyond the body.
Jen Gabbard says
So very true, and that connection is one that never goes away.
That last quote is just my favorite. You’re absolutely right, it does get better but you’ll never get over the loss of your beloved. My boys are 8 and 9 now and I’m painfully aware that the years with them are flying by, which saddens me but I’m comforted in all the happy times I have with them and the thousands, MILLIONS of times they’ve made me smile.
It sucks and it hurts, but it is SO worth it.
Thanks for sharing hun.
Jen Gabbard says
That last quote really gets to me, it does sum up it up perfectly (for me at least). I try my hardest not to think about my dogs age, but it’s something I’m always aware of.. The time really go by too fast with them.
Jan K says
I really think that final quote says it all perfectly. I think one of the toughest things for people to remember is that everyone is different. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves, others retreat into themselves. It is tough to know what to say to someone grieving, but I think just letting them know you are there if they need you is the best thing. I think “keep it simple” is a good mantra here – because as you said, when people feel like they have to say something, they often end up saying something insensitive, especially when it’s a pet that was lost. They mean well, but someone who is in pain from loss is especially sensitive.
Jen Gabbard says
Absolutely when it comes to not knowing what to say when someone is grieving. If I hadn’t been on the receiving end of some of those awkward comments I’d probably still be saying things like ‘so… you thinking about getting another dog?’ As you said keeping it simple is a great mantra to have. A lot of times just being there and willing to listen is the best comfort in the world.
At our house it comes in waves, but the waves get smaller and less frequent with time. The hardest part is watching everyone around you going on as if nothing happened while you sit there with your world destroyed. We get through it, but it is not a fun process. Great post!
Jen Gabbard says
Thank you so much for the comment, that feeling of watching everyone else go on as normal is such a weird sensation. I admire your courage and honesty when it comes to the subject, and I know it’s something you’ve been going through recently.
This article and the comments. Helped so much. Thank you
I just lost my dog 2 days ago. I’ve had anxiety since the day I got her about this impending day. It’s the saddest day of my life and I feel like I’m never going to be the same, which is so scary to me.
Oh my goodness – I picked my boy out of a dump when he was 4 weeks old and loved him minute by minute until he died in his 13 th year on the 3rd february. I had anxiety everyday like you. I wanted the best for him – I wanted him to have the best life. But all I could do was keep him safe and happy and love him until the day he died. Like you. He was the love of my life. I am so sorry for you and hope the memories replace this grief and loss in time
Mc donald says
I Just lost my Dear Chatlie Of almost
of Fourteen years…I cant seem to get over it yet,,,Hurts sooo bad…He slept with us from the first we got him at Less then two months old….How do I cope with This???
I’m so sorry for your loss. I too just lost my cat today & I can so totally relate to what u r saying & feeling. This is not my 1st rodeo. The anxiety & pain r so excruciating. We do mend, some sooner than others. May God give peace to your soul. God Bless
I understand how you feel, I my prayers are with you.
Tony E. says
I just found out my best friend. For 12 years has throat cancer . I have dreaded this. For years. She’s still with me but this week is final . So everything I do with her this week is the last. I’m so overwhelmed with anxiety and sadness Iim yet to go home and her not be at door waiting for me to come. In…..(whew) OUCH !!
Jen Gabbard says
I’m so sorry, I can’t imagine how rough that is.
I lost my Dog of 7 years on Feb 19 ,2018 .????I have cried everyday since..I had to put him down .He got sick very fast. The pain has been unreal The guilt if I could have done more is overwhelming . I am not sure this pain will ever go away.????
Jen Gabbard says
I’m so sorry for your loss. As far as the guilt goes that’s something I struggled with as well, because no matter what people say there might not be that moment when you feel 100% sure that it’s the “right time.” I didn’t have a moment like that, but I did have many conversations about his quality of life that helped me make the decision. Looking back I know it was the “right” decision, but dealing with the emotions that go along with it aren’t that simple and made it impossible for me to look at it objectively. Again I’m so sorry for your loss.
Ευγενία Πανοπούλου says
I lost my boy two months ago… he was 13.5 years old .. only ! He was may baby , I always felt that he was a baby… we both tried hard when problems began with his heart and kidneys … he had lost weight he was bones and skin… but for me he was the most beautiful dog in the whole world ! I see him everyday around him, I call him often as I used to do , as if he is not gone…. His loss is the hardest death I had to deal with ever…even from close relatives…. The only thing I want is to see him again and hold him in my arms…
Jen Gabbard says
I’m so sorry for your loss.
I lost my beautiful selfless companion 4 days ago in a freak and heart breaking accident. My life has been totally turned upside down.. my routine gone..He was my constant for five years..the pain and guilt are flooding over me in waves..all the questions of why and what if don’t go away. He was my best friend ❤
Jen Gabbard says
I’m so sorry for your loss.
Tamsyn McLean says
I lost my best friend, Fergus on June 6, 2018 to a sudden illness. He was 9-1/2 years old. We didn’t know he was sick until the day we had to put him down. He was may baby boy. For much of that time it was just me and him, and we did everything together. Sometimes he even came to work with me. He loved being with me and his biggest fear was being left behind. I’m so glad I was there with him until the end. I didn’t want him to feel he was alone. I wanted him to know how much he was loved until the very end. Now I’m the one who was left behind. I agree with others in this post, his loss is the hardest death I had to deal with ever. And yes, I would give anything to see him again and hold him in my arms. I still feel overwhelmed with grief. And yes I have that same surreal feeling of being disconnected from anything but my grief a lot of the time still. He was such an amazing and wonderful part of my world, and now I don’t quite know how to live in that world without him.
Dot Schneider says
Thank you for Sharing this Information.
Last Week I had to put my 18 year old Beautiful Lab down. Cabella ( my GF )..
I am struggling & tears keep falling.
TU for this site.. it helps..
I’m really struggling, we lost our beautiful dog 36 hours ago, and the pain is unbearable, feels much worse than any other loss I’ve experienced. I miss her so so much, she was with me 24/7 I feel I can’t cope without her but there’s something inside me telling me everything will be ok. Thank you for this site it’s helped me today
Jen Gabbard says
I’m so sorry for your loss.
We lost our dog yesterday and till now im crying the whole day didnt come to work and my mom keep saying we should get another dog. I hope our family especially my mom can cope up during this hard times. We will forever miss you my baby chu’!
I lost my boy Duke on July 3, 2019. I cry everyday and miss him so much it hurts. I want to feel better but I look around and he’s not here to greet me anymore. I have such a hole in my heart from losing him. I hope things will get better soon.
We lost our beautiful Molly Mae unexpectedly 4 days ago. The loss, for me, has been nothing like I’ve ever experienced. It was surreal. And the love! Oh the amount of love I have for her.. it’s almost crushing. The bond she and I had was the most beautiful experience. I talk to her a lot. I remember the wonderful times discovering what a beautiful soul she is. That eases the pain somewhat. I just miss her, like I’ve never missed anything before. I focus on our 3 other beautiful babies and give them extra love as they are beginning to understand. I sob, then move forward. I remember, then move forward. It is work. A conscious process. An allowance of despair and then remembrance of joy. She took a huge piece of me with her, which in a way, encourages me to understand she loves me just as much, if not more. Fly high, my beautiful bear.. Momma loves you and always will.
Thank you for your heartfelt words on this subject.
I lost my beautiful Golden, Silas, 16 days ago and my heart is completely broken. He was my best friend in the whole world. So caring and gentle, always by my side and comforting me when I was sad or crying. He was the light of my life when everything else fell apart around me. I’m just filled up with love and longing for him and sadness that I can’t see him or feel him or touch him. I wake up crying in the middle of the night when I have a dream about him and in the morning when I realize that he is not here. The pain of him not being here with me anymore is devastating. Now there is just this gaping dog-shaped hole in my heart and I feel so empty inside and alone all of the time. I don’t know how I’ll ever be okay again. The world just feels like a cold and lonely place now, but it helps to know that I’m not alone in coping with this kind of loss. I try to remember everything about him, how he would press his cheek up against my thigh and just stand still like that, his wholly smell and the softness of his furry ears. I am so thankful for the 8 1/2 years I got to spend with him and for all the joy and laughter he brought into my life. Sorrow is the price of love and I am thankful that I got to experience such unconditional love in this lifetime.
I am very sorry for your loss. And I totally understand your feeling. I lost my cat last year, and he wasn’t just a cat to me. He was my best friend, and I miss him and think of him every day. You said you have a dog-shaped hole in your heart; then i have a cat-shaped hole in my heart. My cat isn’t an ordinary cat, he greeted me when I came home from work every time, he was always where I could see him. He was so sweet and wonderful. I can spend another 10 pages to talk about him. It does help to see that there are a lot of other people feel what I feel, and we are not alone here.
It helps to know so many people feel as strongly about their dogs as I do. I lost my beautiful 16.5 year old Scamp in October and 10 weeks later my gorgeous 14.5 year old Tallulah. To lose my two loving, precious girls so close together has been really, really hard. I’m struggling to cope without them and miss them all the time; their love, smiles, joy, happy personalities, constant presence are gone and have left an enormous pit which I’m struggling to find a way out of. Other family members don’t seem to realise my loss and barely mention them; it’s like they never existed! I’ve lost dogs before and struggled, but never like this, as I’ve always had two dogs and the remaining one needed my care and love. Now I have none and my world has been turned upside down. I think of all our great times together and all the beautiful everyday joys they gave me, but I just get so upset and break down in tears of longing to have them back again. I know I will get through this horrible time but boy am I missing my precious girls..
Matthew Schone says
You’re right on what you said that we all grieve differently, that whats works for you may not work for them. It might be hard at first but eventually, I know it will get better. Thanks a lot for this article it really helps giving comfort especially those who have lost their furries.
My beautiful little dog Lily died 3 days ago.. i cry all the time. My heart is broken .. my World is now an empty dark place and I cannot believe I will never see her again..touch her again..14 years.. I am a broken man. This is the worst I have ever felt in 60 years. Through all the death and heartache I have experienced..this has crushed my heart. . I walk through the door and the tears flow.. I can barely type this through the sobbing tears.. Oh Lily. my beautiful little girl. I loved you every single day..and I will Love you forever..
I want to share this in hope that maybe i can give even a small fragment of hope and courage to those who go through this devastating situation.
My beautiful little boy passed one and a half month ago, after 13 years together. He is my sun, my moon, my heart.
During the first days I was struggling to live and breathe. It is the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life. I felt as if I was walking through hell and I was almost convinced that I was in fact in hell. I took a walk outside in the city that had been flooded by a storm overnight (a storm I hadn’t even noticed in that state of mind). It was such a dark and gloomy day, with water everywhere, parts of the streets were under the sea. It looked like doomsday. Crying uncontrollably. I felt like a ghost wandering on earth, all alone and lost. Suddenly the sun came out, and I took a picture of it with my phone. I was certainly not in a state to take pictures, but for some reason I did.
The next night I managed to look through my last pictures and I saw that picture. And I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed what was in front of me. A big cloud in front of the sun, in the shape of my prince, with bright sunlight all around it. The head, the ears. And on the sides of this cloud, two beautiful open golden wings. I sent the picture to my father who immediately recognized him.
When I was blinded by the pain, he was there watching over me. It was his greeting to me. It was him showing me that he is fine. The most beautiful, wonderful angel. Flying in heaven. I felt his presence and from that moment on I knew that we never parted. I knew that he is doing amazing. He is up there waiting for me.
I was praying to see him in my dreams (not in my horrible nightmares) , and he came some days later. I could feel his beautiful blonde fur under my palm and the warmth of his body, his small lungs breathing in and out. It was so real and I was so happy to hug him again!! All the times I have seen him have been a blessing and a gift to me.
and Im now thinking:
How can this life be a hell when I have the infinite love of my beautiful boy? When I have had the honor to have the most beautiful angel close to me forever?When I have experienced the purest and most beautiful form of love and bonding, a love that will never end or fade but will accompany me through eternity? Even if my heart and soul are half, even if I’m crying and hurting everyday – I still know that this pain is temporary, and when this life is over he will be waiting for me. When I open my eyes again I will see my little prince in front of me and we will never part again. He is always with me and I feel his presence and love and these thoughts help me keep going in this life.
When there is love between a dog and a human a promise is made: we will be together forever. Its true. Our hearts are watching over us. And they want us to be happy.
Dont let the pain blind you. Your pet is here, around you, everywhere. You will feel them close. They are sending you sunsets and happiness. You are blessed to have a love like this. The pain and the void will never go away until your last day. But have hope. Because you will see them again and live the most beautiful adventures together.
See you soon Snow! I love you forever and ever.
We lost my beautiful 12 years old boy a month ago
His death was very sudden, and it is so so hard for me.
We adopted him when he was 4 months and I was 5, he was my first dog and he was perfect, he was so gentle and adorable.
It’s been a month, I haven’t seen him in a month now. I miss him so much.
When we adopted him, we didn’t think we’ll come back home with a dog.
When we took him to the pet hospital, we didn’t think we’ll come back home without him.