Pet bereavement: How to cope with the loss of a pet

Losing a pet is like losing a member of your family and the grief that comes with this can be overwhelming.
close up of cat cuddling into a persons shoulder with their eyes closed

It’s normal to feel quite overcome by sadness while dealing with the loss of a pet. Our pets are a huge part of our lives, they influence our daily routines, they are our constant companions and a source of comfort and love. Losing all of this can be a lot to come to terms with.  

Tips for coping with grief 

1. Acknowledge your feelings and don’t try to fight them  

Grief can bring up a mix of confusing and distressing emotions, from shock to sadness and even anger. Although some people may not understand it, it’s very normal to experience this kind of grief following the loss of a pet.  

Acknowledge that what you’re feeling is real and allow yourself the space and time to grieve as you need. 

2. Speak to someone about your grief 

Don’t struggle alone, talking to a trusted friend or loved one about what you’re going through might help you feel less alone.  

If you feel like you’re struggling to cope, your GP or an accredited bereavement counsellor should help you find the tools to manage your grief. 

3. Do something to commemorate your pet 

Many pet owners find that celebrating their pet’s memory in some way can help with the grieving process. This could include scattering their ashes in one of their favourite places, donating to an animal welfare charity in their name, or creating a memorial for them.  

We remember past pets at the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home through our Memory Trees. These are a pair of memorial sculptures where owners can remember their beloved dog or cat with a personalised engraved leaf.  

dog cuddling into a person's shoulder with their eyes closed

Supporting a child with pet bereavement 

Navigating grief is difficult and confusing and it can be hard to know what to say, especially when you’re trying to support a child with these feelings.  

The BBC has some great guidance on how to approach pet bereavement with your child, advising that you should use simple language and avoid euphemisms such as ‘gone to sleep’, as well as focusing on happy memories.  

Young children may need help to understand and label their emotions, let them know that it’s okay to cry and talk to them about how they feel.  

Further support  

Losing a loved one is a painful and potentially isolating experience, but you don’t have to suffer alone.  

Pet bereavement counsellors such as Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home partner, Dawn Murray, have resources and experience to help guide you through this difficult time.  

You can also reach out to a pet bereavement support line such as the Cat’s Protection ‘Paws to Listen’ or the Blue Cross pet loss support line.  

Remember past pets with our Memory Tree

Buy a leaf