Why does losing a pet hurt so much?

The pain of losing a pet is very real because the emotions you shared with your pet were genuine. The grief you feel is valid because you didn't lose an object—you lost someone close and special to you.

The British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists describes grief as "the biopsychosocial response to bereavement and can include a range of feelings such as anger, denial, relief, guilt, and sadness. Everyone will experience grief in their lifetime. For some people, the acute pain of grief will continue and stay for a long period; for others, it will fade, allowing the bereaved person to accept their loss" (BACP, 2024).

It's normal to experience grief for the animal you love. When your pet suddenly becomes ill, or you have to make a euthanasia decision, it's normal to feel responsible and to keep replaying the events. You feel emotional and physical pain.

 

Losing a pet is different from losing a person:

Firstly, our society often downplays the pain of losing a pet, treating it as melodramatic. Yet, no one questions how much joy our pets bring us, so why would losing them not cause pain?

Secondly, grieving for a pet is different because our relationship with them is different. Our pets don’t judge us; they see us as perfect and love us unconditionally. This pure connection makes it incredibly hard when they are gone. Our pets also can’t communicate with us like humans can, so we often have to make difficult decisions for them particularly when it's their time to go.

Lastly, The societal downplaying of pet loss, the unconditional love of the human-animal bond, and our pets' inability to speak all make grieving for a pet different from mourning a human.

Some additional factors can make losing your pet even harder:

  • Making a euthanasia decision - Grieving the loss of a pet after euthanasia can be difficult 
  • Losing a rescue pet
  • If your pet rescued you
  • If your pet was a link to someone you loved and lost before

The pain you feel is real and valid. The relationships we share with our pets are fundamentally different from those we have with family and friends. Beyond our obvious physical differences, there is a profound emotional connection. Pets do not judge us; they don’t talk or overthink. They see us through the lens of pure love. They rush to the door when we come, displaying joy and excitement. I have three cats and without fail they get up from their sleeping spots and come over to meet me. They cuddle and don’t carry societal expectations. They simply know how to love.

 

How to deal with the loss of a pet?

Always remember our pets love unconditionally and have an exceptional capacity for forgiveness, more so than many humans. Your pet experienced a life of love with you, they always knew that you loved them and that they were considered and cared for to the best of your ability. If you are particularly struggling with guilt over their loss remember 'they forgive you, and they would want you to forgive yourself'.

If you find you need a place to process the loss of your animal please do reach out. I am here to support you.

 

 

 

 


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