How To Cope When A Pet Dies

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated August 4, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Ann-Marie Duncan, LCMHC

The loss of an animal companion is something that can have a profound impact on you. You spend a lot of time caring for your animal, and you develop a strong bond with it over time, so when your beloved pet dies, it leaves an impact. For some people, animals are like members of the family, and they can feel like they’re irreplaceable. You love your animal friend very much, and it’s normal to feel deeply saddened and need emotional support after your beloved animal passes away. Animal loss is something that can make you experience your own grief and feel depressed, even if you know how to cope with things effectively. If you have recently lost a beloved dog, cat, or other animal, then you might need some advice for getting through this trying time. Read on to learn more about how you can cope with the loss of a beloved animal.

It's Normal To Feel Grief Over the Passing of a Pet

Allow Yourself To Grieve

One mistake that some people make when dealing with the loss of a pet is that they fail to let themselves grieve. When a pet dies, some people feel silly when they get depressed over losing a beloved animal. You shouldn’t feel like you’re wrong in any way for grieving a pet’s death. Pet loss is significant, and animals can mean just as much to many people as human companions. Coping with any loss will take time, and you’re going to need to deal with your emotions before you can really start moving on. You have to grieve for your animal so that you can heal, and there is nothing wrong with taking some time to be emotional.

If you need to cry about losing your beloved animal, then you should take the time to cry. There is nothing wrong with crying about something that makes you sad, and it’s actually healthy to do so. It’s only worrying if you can’t seem to get over how emotional you’re feeling after a pet’s death. It might take you a few weeks to process things and get your feelings off. Many people feel sad about animal loss for weeks, and some even wind up becoming depressed. If you can grieve healthily, then you should be able to move on over time and get back to feeling like your normal self.

Try To Explain Things To Your Kids

Trying to explain things to your kids will be one of the toughest parts of animal loss. Losing a beloved animal is hard enough without having a child in the picture. A child isn’t always going to be able to understand what a pet’s death means, and it’s up to you to explain it to them in a way that will make sense for them. Some parents will choose to try to use this as a teaching moment for their child in regard to death. Others will try to protect their child or children from the harshness of this situation. Try to do what you think is best for your family and be there for your kids when they’re feeling sad about losing a beloved companion.

There is an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that can help many kids understand the loss of a pet, even during early childhood. In it, Fred Rogers reads a children’s book called “When A Pet Dies,” of which he is one of the authors. Although he’s primarily known for his work in television programming and the television industry, Fred Rogers started to write books for children as well. Jim Judkis, live with the affable star himself who received virtually every major award, helped compose the words for this book. Fred Rogers also wrote this book, one of his many children’s books, to explore the feelings and emotions children may experience when the loss of a pet occurs.

“When a Pet Dies” assures youngsters that what they are feeling after the loss of a pet is normal and doesn’t tell them that their furry friend was “just a pet” or that its death isn’t a big deal. You may wish to share this book or watch the episode mentioned above with your child. Mister Rogers’ book is often thought of as the best children’s book to share with kids to help them understand the grieving process. According to Booklist, Fred Rogers filled this children’s book with warmth and reassurance. Although he passed away in 2003, author/producer Fred Rogers lives on through his legacy. Children feel the same range of emotions that adults do, but they don’t always know how to handle these emotions, so a relatable book or TV show can be very helpful.

Remember The Good Times

Remembering the good times in your pet’s life is going to help you to feel better about things once you’re starting to move on. You likely made many memories with your beloved pet over the years. You can even create a photo album containing photos of your pet to look back on when your grief feels overwhelming. Beloved animal loss can’t take those precious memories from you, and you’ll always be able to think back on the experiences that you had with your beloved animal friends. If you had a special bond with your dog, cat, or other pet, then they are going to stay in your heart forever, even when you return to your normal routine. There will come a time when you’ll be able to look back on those times and smile. It might be hard for you to do this at first when the loss is still fresh, but it can become a source of strength and comfort later on, and it can remind you of the incredible memories you made with your furry friends.

Hold A Service For Your Animal

Holding a service for your beloved animal is a great idea as well. It is becoming more common for people to hold services for their pets now than it used to be. Animals are like members of your family, and it makes sense to do what you can to honor them. You might want to invite a few close friends and family members to a wake for your beloved pet. They can share stories about the beloved animal, and everyone can grieve the loss while at this service. It’s a fitting way to honor your beloved companion that made such a difference in your life.

Here are some frequently asked questions:

What do you do when a pet dies?

When a pet dies, it’s completely normal to experience grief and sadness. After all, for many people, pets are family members. You could try attending special interest groups like pet loss support groups, spending time with other pets, or even volunteering at the Humane Society to help other animals. This can be a very healing thing to do, and although it won’t make up for lost pets, it can be comforting to know that you’re making a difference in other animals’ lives.

If you feel sad for months after a pet’s death, it may be helpful to seek professional help. Sometimes, grief can become depression, and a mental health professional can make a diagnosis and identify methods of treatment.

Why is losing a pet so painful?

Part of the reason why losing a pet is so painful is because you’re not just losing a pet; you’re also losing a friend and family member, as well as the unconditional love they gave you. Even if your pet passed away from old age and you were expecting the loss, their death can be a major life event just like losing a human loved one.

You may feel sad or even feel guilty about the death of your pet, but death is an inevitable part of life. The most important thing is to find healthy ways to cope with these emotions and feelings. Whether your pet was a dog, cat, or other animal, it’s completely understandable to feel a huge sense of loss when they pass away.

How do you recover from a death of a pet?

What are signs from pets in the afterlife?

Do you ever get over losing a pet?

Do dogs know they are dying?

How do you heal a broken heart after losing a pet?

How long does it take to get over the death of a pet?

How long does grieving a pet last?

Can I bury my dog in my backyard?

Spend Time Doing Things That You Love

Getting over the death of a pet is going to be hard, but you have to try to stay positive so that you can move forward in life. One of the most practical ways to do this is to try to spend more time doing things that you love to do, such as spending time with family, including any surviving pets or even a new pet. This shouldn’t be seen as a replacement option for dealing with your grief, though. If you have yet to process your emotions, then you shouldn’t try to push them aside since that is not emotionally healthy for you. If you’re starting to get to a better place after the loss of a beloved animal, then you can try to spend some time doing fun things again.

For instance, you could start to put more time into certain hobbies that bring you joy as a way of offering reassurance to yourself. Some people like to focus on exercise and physical fitness so that they can feel better overall. Others might want to enjoy other fun hobbies such as playing sports, playing games, arts & crafts, or any other hobbies that might make a positive impact. Basically, you can use hobbies to keep yourself from sitting around feeling down about the loss of an animal. This won’t make animal loss less emotional for you in the beginning, but it can help you to return to normalcy once you’ve processed your emotions.

A related method of healing from grief is to travel to a new place, whether that’s a nearby city or other countries. Traveling can help you process your feelings of grief about your pet, and although it isn’t a magical cure-all, it can help you gain perspective regarding the passing of your old friend.

Consider Adopting A New Pet

Nothing will replace the bond that you shared with your beloved animal. Your friendship with your companion that just passed away is something that you should always cherish, and that will not change no matter what. It could be a good idea to consider adopting a new furry friend when you lose a beloved animal, though. Many people find that being able to love and care for a new animal helps them to move on after the loss of a beloved animal. When a beloved animal passes on, it’s tough because part of your daily routine changes, and there is now a void there where your beloved animal used to be. A new animal will give you something positive to focus on, but you don’t have to view it as a replacement for your beloved animal that passed away.

It's Normal To Feel Grief Over the Passing of a Pet

Loss will be easier to cope with if you’re able to take steps to move on. Moving on might be easier for some people when they go ahead and adopt a new furry friend. There are millions of animals out there that need good homes, and you could love one of them if you’re willing to give it a shot. Of course, this is only going to be a recommended idea if you’re already coping with animal loss. If you’re not in a good place mentally after the death of a pet, then you might want to hold off on this. For some people, waiting a while after the death of a companion will be necessary because they will need more time to grieve.

Reach Out For Help When You’re Experiencing Depression

Some people are going to have problems with depression when you lose a pet. Animal loss might be so tough for you to cope with that you will feel depressed. This is actually normal, but it can be a bad thing if the depression is worse than usual and doesn’t seem to be letting up after several months have passed. If you feel like you’re still depressed over losing your beloved pet, then it might be time to reach out for professional help. Thankfully, many things can be done to treat depression.

The first thing that you should do is talk to your doctor about what you’re experiencing. Your doctor will be able to go through the process of diagnosing you with a depression disorder if you have one. Determining what is wrong will help you to move forward, and your doctor can figure out what needs to be done. Some people who are struggling with depression after the loss of a beloved animal might need to take antidepressant medications to get things back to normal. It’s also possible that your doctor might suggest therapy as a way of dealing with beloved animal loss.

Using Therapy To Cope With Pet Loss

Therapy can be a very effective method of helping people to cope with loss. In fact, it can even be helpful if you feel like you’re going through the grieving process normally. Therapy isn’t just for people who are struggling with deep depression. It can also be useful for anyone who needs help processing emotions. If you’d like to talk to someone that you can trust, then spending time speaking with a therapist will be emotionally beneficial. They can talk to you about beloved animal loss, and you can come to terms with everything much easier. This won’t make the pain of losing your beloved animal disappear entirely, but you’ll be able to get through this situation with support.

Some people turn to online therapy as the most convenient way of getting help. Online therapy, like BetterHelp, is very much like traditional in-person therapy, but you’re able to enjoy sessions without having to leave your house. Both types of therapy are great options when you’re dealing with the loss of an animal, and you should consider which of them you’d like to pursue. No matter what, you’re going to be able to cope with loss easier when you have the help of a compassionate professional. Remember that help is always available.

Helpful mental health resources delivered to your inbox
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.