Losing a Pet Suddenly: 7 Steps to Help You Cope Through Grief

Old Dog

When most people get a new pet, their short life span is usually the farthest thing from their minds. But the loss of a pet is no less tragic because it’s common or expected.

After losing a pet suddenly, expect to grieve no matter how long you’ve had the animal. Here are 7 steps to help you cope with the loss of your pet.

1. Find a Calming Practice

One of the best ways to cope with losing a pet suddenly is to find a daily calming practice. Meditation is a popular practice that can completely transform your mood.

Though meditation is a recent trend, it’s been practiced in Eastern cultures for thousands of years as a form of mind-body medicine. It works by helping you focus on your breathing and minimizing your thoughts.

The results of meditation are getting a positive perspective in bad situations, reducing negative emotions, and increasing patience. Meditation isn’t a cure-all for the loss of your pet but with even five minutes of focused breathing each day, you can lower the severity of your grief.  

There’s no set way to meditate. You can simply practice deep breathing in the car on your way to work while listening to calming music. 

Experiment with different styles of meditation to learn which practice works best for you. Other calming practices include taking long walks, yoga, and tai chi. 

2. Memorialize Your Pet

Grief isn’t about finding a way to forget about loved ones. It’s about celebrating their memory instead of getting stuck in a cycle of sadness.

Build a memorial in your home where you keep a few items that remind you of your pet. This doesn’t have to be a permanent memorial.

You might keep the memorial for a few years before realizing you no longer need help coping. Explore pet loss gifts that can be added to the memorial to remind you of the fun times you had together. 

For example, photo books are a great option that keeps all your memories in one place. Find unique, timeless ways to arrange your photo book so you can incorporate it into existing family photo collections. 

3. Seek Support from Friends

The saying ‘misery loves company’ has many meanings. One way for a grieving person to move forward is with the loving support of friends.

In this case, misery needs company. Being alone gives you too much time to ruminate on your sadness. 

There’s nothing at all that can be gained from getting caught in an endless cycle of negative emotions. You owe it to your pet to continue creating new memories with people you love in their absence.

Most pets love seeing their owners happy so continue their memory by having fun with friends and listening to advice on how to deal with your grief. 

4. Adjust Your Family Identity

If your children have grown up knowing your pet, it may be hard for them to imagine your family without them. Pet routines are embedded into your family schedule. 

When pets are gone, find new ways to fill the gap in your schedule that represents your family’s new identity. Make sure the activity helps bring your family together.

For example, you might decide to get coffee or hot chocolate as a family before school instead of walking your dog. The new activity can become a family ritual that doesn’t replace your dog but creates something new for the kids to look forward to.

If you live alone, this might be harder to accomplish if everyone in the neighborhood knows you as being a pet owner. It’s still possible to reshape your identity by focusing head-on into something else you love.

Spend more time caring for your plants, or finishing up a creative project.

5. Practice Self Care

Grieving isn’t the time most people think of pampering themselves. But feeling sad can be temporarily healed when you practice self-care.

Go get a massage, start that new detox you’ve been putting off, or finish reading a book you started months ago. The small feelings of pampering support your overall wellbeing and self-esteem.

Even small wins can help encourage you to believe in your ability to cope with challenges in life. If the end of grief doesn’t come soon, self-care encourages you to love yourself enough to know that you’re powerful enough to get through anything. 

6. Create Rituals 

One way to feel safe after losing a pet suddenly is to create rituals. Make your day a dependable place to be.

If you’re used to eating breakfast at a certain hour, maintain this schedule so your body can adjust to the new normal. Over time you’ll begin to feel normal in your daily routine without your pet around.

7. Expect to Grieve

Your pet is a loved one. No matter how long you’ve been a pet owner, the excitement you felt the day they came home won’t be erased by death.

It takes your mind and heart time to adjust to the idea of permanent loss. If you suddenly find yourself crying without end, allow the release. 

Expect to grieve in a variety of ways from crying to loss of appetite to missing activities you’d normally enjoy. Don’t judge yourself for breaking your routine from time to time.

The key is to feel safe to express yourself during the process of moving through your grief. 

How Long Does Grief Last After Losing a Pet Suddenly?

Losing a pet suddenly brings on a wave of emotions that affects everyone differently. Most people might not feel the same about your fish dying as you would a daily companion like a cat or dog.

But this could change if you used your fish for emotional support and felt a sense of companionship like you would a dog. Emotional bonds with living creatures don’t always follow a textbook pattern.

Worry less about how long you should grieve and more about maintaining a supportive environment for as long as possible. For more information and tips, visit our blog for updates.