PET GRIEF & LOSS
CAN YOU RELATE?
I don’t know what to do but I don’t want them to suffer
I feel heartbroken and so alone
I feel traumatized because I had to see everything
I miss them so much and no one understands
I am full of regret as I should have done…
It has been years since I lost them but still feel guilty about how they died
They are missing and I keep looking - how long
I'm looking after them because their owner died, they seem sad
No one understands how I feel
I’ve worked as a psychologist since 2001, specialising in healthcare (mind-body medicine) and had significant experience in loss, grief, unresolved feelings, trauma, adjustment and wellbeing through the work I do. As part of my training, I specifically studied death and dying, as this is one area you can’t avoid when it comes to life.
The human-animal bond is like no other. Our pets give us unconditional love, become part of the family and depend on us for care. Animal grief is unique and can differ from accepted types of grief because it can be disenfranchised. Thus, others may not recognise its significance, making it harder to get the support you need.
Understanding the complexities of grief, like the type and stage you are experiencing.
Having to adjust to life without them.
Managing a trauma response based on how you lost them.
Supporting your general resilience or capacity to cope with your loss.
Helping recognise if your reaction goes beyond what is considered a normal range and moves to depression or complicated grief.
Since childhood, I’ve shared my life with many pets including cats, dogs and rabbits. I’ve had to put my two cats (17 yrs & 19 yrs) to sleep because of their age and health, the sudden death of my puppy (6 months) getting run over, watching my giant rabbit (3.5 yrs) die suddenly and unexpectedly during a vet visit, rehoming two bunnies, and finding my dwarf rabbit (4 yrs) dead and not knowing why. Circumstances of your loss and your age at the time matter.
My point of mentioning my pet life history is to let you know I have had experience with a range of personal pet losses, grief, unresolved feelings, trauma, adjustment and improved life with having pets in it. Currently, I’m fortunate to have Shadow, my 10-year-old exotic black cat from the SPCA.