How to cope when it’s time to say goodbye

When a person you love dies, it’s natural to feel sorrow, express grief, and expect friends and family to provide understanding and comfort.

Unfortunately, the same doesn’t always hold true if the one who died was your companion animal. Many consider grieving inappropriate for someone who has lost “just a pet.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Members of the family

People love their pets and consider them members of their family. Caregivers celebrate their pets’ birthdays, confide in their animals, and carry pictures of them in their wallets. So when your beloved pet dies, it’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your sorrow.

Animals provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support, and unconditional love during the time they share with you. If you understand and accept this bond between humans and animals, you’ve already taken the first step toward coping with pet loss: knowing that it is okay to grieve when your pet dies.

Understanding how you grieve and finding ways to cope with your loss can bring you closer to the day when memories bring smiles instead of tears.


For more information on coping with the loss of a beloved pet, visit the Humane Society website, where part of this article was reprinted.

Ideas to Help You Cope

When my beloved dog, Butterfinger, died in my arms many years ago, it was terribly hard on me.  When I was ready, I planted a bush in the yard, watching it bloom every year and thus reminding me of her.

Here are a few other ways to help you through the grieving process. Focus on the positive memories of your animal.

  1. Plant a flowering plant or other bush in the garden. If you had the remains cremated, sprinkle the ashes in the hole as you plant. Year after year, as the plant flowers, it will remind you of your pet.
  2. Ask your veterinarian to have your pet’s ashes buried in a pet cemetery. Visit when you are able.
  3. Have a stepping stone or other garden art made with your pet’s name.
  4. Make a donation to an animal care facility in memory of your pet.
  5. Write a poem or memories down on lovely paper.
  6. Create a scrapbook with photos and fond memories.
  7. Frame a photo, or have some artwork made from a photo
  8. Tell fond stories of your pet with friends and relatives to keep your pet’s memory alive.
  9. There are books available to help you cope with your loss.  Many veterinarians have books that they’ll give you. Another good start is Amazon.
  10. Attend a pet grief support group. Check your local Humane Society.

If you choose to leave your pet’s body with a veterinarian or humane society for disposal, you may not have a choice in how that body is disposed of. If you wish to ensure that your pet is, in fact, cremated, be sure to request this option. If the option is not available, you will need to take your pet’s remains elsewhere.