Navigating Grief And Finding Closure After Euthanizing A Pet

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 9, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Is grief over the loss of your pet taking a toll?

Choosing to euthanize a beloved companion animal may be one of the most difficult decisions a pet parent can make. Euthanasia, also known as "putting down" or "putting to sleep," is generally not something we take lightly and can often be heartbreaking.

Many of us are fully aware that our pets won't live forever, but it can still be a shock to consider euthanasia as an option. Pet parents may have to make the difficult decision to euthanize their beloved pet for many different reasons. These can range from physical ailments, such as cancer or kidney failure, to behavioral issues, like aggression, that cannot be resolved.

Whatever the cause, finding closure and coping with the grief and pet bereavement that often follows can be a complex process. Recalling fond memories, like joyful car rides with your pet, and talking to others about your feelings may help you find closure. Working with a therapist can also provide you with the guidance you deserve as you work through your grief.

The process of euthanasia for pets

Sometimes, the most compassionate thing a pet parent can do is to decide that their pet's quality of life is deteriorating, and it is time for them to go. Euthanasia for pets typically involves an injection of a sedative that puts them to sleep peacefully and painlessly.

Before the procedure, a veterinarian will likely discuss the process with you and answer any questions you may have. They may explain what your pet will experience during the injection and ask if you'd like to be present for the procedure.

After the injection, your pet may drift into a peaceful sleep, and its heart may stop beating. You may then be welcome to spend some time with your pet afterward. This time can provide closure for both of you as you say goodbye and reminisce about the special times you had together.

Euthanasia should be discussed with your veterinarian to ensure it is the most compassionate option. There can be many reasons why they may feel that it is the best path forward. For example, if your pet is in pain and has no chance of recovery, it may be best to euthanize them so they do not have to be in pain anymore.

Grieving the loss of a pet after euthanasia

Our pets bring so much joy and companionship into our lives, so it can be understandable to feel a wide range of emotions when we face losing them. Whether you realize it or not, interacting with your animal friend may have greatly affected your mental health.

Your strong emotional connection to your pet may go beyond companionship. It can be a bond that has real health benefits. In fact, studies indicate having animals can decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and even lower your blood pressure.

As a result, navigating through pet loss can be a heart-wrenching journey. It may bring up many different emotions, so it's usually helpful to acknowledge these feelings and give yourself the time and space to work through them. 

You may feel guilty about your pet’s death, even if euthanasia was the most compassionate choice. Many pet owners experience regret after a pet passes away, wondering whether a second opinion might have changed the outcome. You may also feel overwhelmed with sadness or anger at the situation and wish other options existed. 


Pet grief is profound and unique; no matter what you feel, giving yourself time to mourn and navigate the grief process is essential. Grief can be a lengthy process, and there may be no right or wrong way to go through it. Some days, you may feel better, while others may feel worse, especially if you come across constant reminders of their presence. The back-and-forth may feel like an emotional roller coaster, but understanding your emotions can be the first step to healing.

If you are experiencing guilt or regret after euthanizing your pet, a few coping strategies may help:

  • Talking to others: Talking to other people who have gone through a similar experience can help you feel less alone. Whether it is friends, family, or strangers, relating your story and experiences may provide comfort and understanding during this difficult time. You may even find online support groups or forums where you can connect with other pet parents who are going through the same thing.

  • Writing about your experience: Writing can be a potential way to process your emotions and organize your thoughts. You may find that journaling helps you better understand how you feel and what steps you can take to move forward.

  • Finding closure: Closure is often an important part of the grieving process. You can consider planning a memorial service, planting a tree in your pet’s memory, or engaging in other activities that may help you feel closer to your pet posthumously.

At the end of the day, it may still be difficult for you to forgive yourself for your decision or even recognize that it was the best you could do. Learning to forgive yourself and release the guilt can take time, but understanding your emotions and exploring different coping strategies may help you along this journey.

Other considerations after a pet’s death

Once you have made the difficult decision to euthanize your pet, there are some practical considerations to be aware of. For example, what do you want to do with your pet's body after they have passed away? It can be important to think about this ahead of time to make the right decision for you and your pet.

Burial or cremation

Many people bury their pets in their backyard or have them cremated. If you are considering a burial, it can be important to check your local ordinance on pet burials, as they may vary by state. Many clinics specializing in veterinary medicine also offer cremation services and can provide you with the ashes afterward, offering a form of closure.

Keeping your pet’s memory alive 

You can memorialize your pet in a variety of ways. From placing a plaque or monument in their memory to creating a photo album with all your favorite moments, there may be many ways to keep your pet's memory alive. Volunteer work and donations to animal charities can also be a way to pay tribute to your pet.

Discussions with children

If you have children, you can decide how to involve them. Depending on their age, you may want to discuss the situation with them and what to expect. You can be honest and provide age-appropriate information while considering their feelings. 

Children may respond differently to losing a pet, so being prepared for their reactions can be beneficial. You can help them cope with the loss by allowing them to grieve in their own way and giving them time to adjust. Letting them participate in the burial or memorial service may provide comfort and healing.

Moving forward

Moving forward can mean a lot of different things. It may mean taking it day by day, or it could mean welcoming a new companion into your home.

People struggle with loss, and self-care can help with grief in numerous ways, even when the absence feels overwhelming. As you move forward, taking time for yourself, acknowledging your emotions, and practicing self-care often become increasingly important. It can provide an outlet for emotions, allowing people to process the difficult feelings they may be experiencing with the loss of a pet.

Self-care can also create a sense of control and stability in a situation where one may feel powerless. By taking care of yourself, you can start to build a foundation of healing that may help you to eventually welcome a new furry friend into your home.

Adopting a new pet can be an important step for some people moving on from losing their companion. However, it is not always easy, so choosing a new pet may require patience and research. You may want to consider what type of pet fits into your lifestyle and how to ensure the animal is comfortable and supported in its new home.

Remembering your original pet while opening your heart to a new companion may be difficult, but it can also bring you immense joy. With time, patience, and self-care, you may find yourself ready for a new companion in your home. However, if moving forward remains too difficult, there may be ways you can learn to manage the emotions you are feeling and find peace within your grief.

Finding support after losing a beloved pet

Online therapy may provide a safe space for exploring pet loss, understanding its implications, and learning coping strategies. With an online therapist, you can connect to resources and support that align with your needs and preferences. While some difficult journeys must be traveled alone, virtual therapy can help you to do it in a safe and supportive environment.

Recent research has shown online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy for mental health challenges. Online interventions can be extremely valuable in helping people manage their grief and understand the complex emotions of losing a pet. When you stick with it, online therapy can provide lasting benefits that may help you find peace and fulfillment in the wake of your pet's passing.

Pet loss support groups

Pet loss support groups may offer a supportive space for those mourning the loss of a pet, understanding that phrases like "just a dog" fail to capture the depth of bond and grief. These groups can allow people to talk about precious memories and discuss the emotional journey of choosing euthanasia to prevent unnecessary suffering. As a result, these groups may reinforce that grieving the loss of a pet can be done in a healthy manner. 

In these groups, individuals may find compassion while working through the complex emotions of opting for euthanasia as a selfless act of love. Support groups can help pet owners and family members manage the guilt and pain associated with the loss, as they take advantage of a network for healing and remembering the joy pets brought into their lives.

Is grief over the loss of your pet taking a toll?


Although euthanasia is often the most compassionate choice, many pet owners experience guilt and grief as a result. Reaching out to others for support, finding closure, and journaling about the experience may be helpful. A therapist, whether in your local area or online, can also help you to cope with the emotions you may experience after losing a pet.
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