The Grief Of Pet Loss
When a cherished pet passes away, the grief can feel overwhelmingly painful. The grief of pet loss is as real as the grief when we lose a person. Our pets offer unconditional love and comfort, so losing them leaves an aching absence in our daily lives. According to recent surveys, over 85% of pet owners consider their animals to be family members. I like to say pets are people, too. We are not their owners. We are their caretakers. So when that special bond is broken, it deserves as much support as the loss of any loved one.
In a revealing interview, pet loss educator Erica Messer provided unique insight into the grieving process after losing a precious animal companion: “The majority of people do not understand the depth of grief that comes when a pet dies, especially if it’s sudden. They don’t understand the trauma.” The two-way companionship simply ceases. “That unconditional love and constancy is now gone,” shared Messer.
Pet loss impacts millions, as 70% of U.S. households include at least one pet. However, there remains a societal stigma that such grief should be minimized. Erica emphasized, “The grief is real and shouldn’t be discounted.” Finding meaning amidst the pain is a vital part of eventually moving forward.
Expect an Emotional Rollercoaster
Losing a pet can be highly traumatic and often catches us unprepared. Erica described the early grief as full of “shock, confusion, can’t eat, can’t sleep properly.” Over weeks and months, feelings intensify into anger, deep sadness, regret, and self-blame. Understand that wavering emotions are normal after pet loss.
Create Memorial Rituals
Erica encourages small rituals like burial, planting a tree, or daily journaling to process grief. Building memorials like a tribute video or picture board also helps. Revisiting these pet loss memorials provides ongoing comfort on tough days. Consider an annual ceremony on anniversary dates. The grief of pet loss requires the same attention we give the loss of a person.
Find Community Support
Many grief counselors and pet loss support groups hold space for this underserved emotional need. Connect with others who appreciate pets as family, so you don’t feel the need to minimize your sorrow. In the interview, Messer highlighted joining together in community as vital for navigating pet grief.
Practice Self-Care & Patience
Healing from pet loss takes time and gentle self-compassion. Erica affirmed “You’re going to have good days and bad days with this.” Ask loved ones for support on difficult days, and don’t ignore self-care. Manage expectations around grieving and moving forward.
Honor Your Pet’s Memory
Once the initial shock subsides, memorializing your cherished companion can bring a sense of peace and purpose. Erica found inspiration following her cat’s passing by starting a business creating pet loss sympathy cards and grief resources. When the time feels right, consider volunteering, fundraising for rescue organizations, or reinvesting your love into a new pet.
Pet Loss Support from Erica Messer
If you or a loved one is navigating grief after losing a precious pet, Messer provides these helpful resources:
- Wolfie’s Wish Pet Loss Support Group on Facebook
- Pet loss counseling sessions monthly
- Pet loss advice blogs & grief articles
- Pet memorial and sympathy cards
- Pet loss grief activity card decks
- Pet loss coloring book for kids
- Free pet loss templates to download
Erica also offers commissioned pet portrait artwork to memorialize beloved animals. With an artistic background, she finds meaning in creating gifts and resources to support others through pet bereavement.
Join Us For More
This article briefly previews the insights pet loss educator Erica Messer shared on coping with grief after losing a beloved animal friend. Listen to the full interview for more advice on finding hope and solace amidst the painful absence left behind. You can join the ongoing conversation with others experiencing pet loss in the Grief to Growth online community. No one deserves to navigate this journey alone.