Pet Loss

Species does not matter to grief

For many people who love animals . . .

The life of an animal is as important and significant as the life of a human.

The death of an animal is as important and significant as the death of a human.

The grief of those who mourn the loss of beloved animals is as important and significant as the grief of those who mourn the loss of beloved humans. - Teresa Wagner

"Grief is the feeling of loss. It is what happens in your mind and body when someone close to you dies. Your pain is deep and your emotions may seem overwhelming." - Phyllis Solow

"To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage." - Lao Tzu

Species does not matter to grief. It's hard to say goodbye, and just as hard to express the depth of your grief when others around you don’t understand how you feel. At the same time, the end of life of a beloved animal friend can be a period of greater closeness, a time to cherish the unconditional love you feel, and a time of deepening and growth.

Grief comes in many forms. It is not an event, but a process that individuals express in unique ways, and at their own pace - humans as well as animals. Animals grieve too, and can be deeply affected by the loss of someone from their pack, whether it be another animal in the household or one of their people.

Whether your animal is ill or has passed away, it is important to honor your feelings and to understand the emotional and energetic shifts you are experiencing. Your life changes; the space and activity your loved animal filled in your heart and home are suddenly empty. Even when we're "prepared," the loss can be deeply felt.

Grief is a natural part of loss. It comes to us many times in our lives. Any life or circumstance change creates an empty space that may be experienced as grief. Even when the change is “for the best” (such as retirement or a move), there can be a sense of loss and grief. The loss of a loved animal companion, and the unconditional love they provide, can also bring up other losses that may not have been grieved. It is important to honor those feelings.

People grieving the loss of a loved animal friend have expressed their longing to:

  • be acknowledged that their grief is real and deeply painful;
  • feel that they are not crazy or weird to experience deep sorrow;
  • feel relief that someone understands;
  • find a way through the grieving to find a "new normal";
  • have someone to talk through the difficult decision of euthanasia and the guilt they feel over their animal’s assisted or accidental death;
  • have someone to talk with when they have to give up their animal companion, or their animal goes missing and they don't know what happened;
  • have some understanding of how their animal feels about its own life, care and death process;
  • have a way to celebrate their relationship with their companion animal, or to conduct a ritual or memorial that brings closure.

Animal Reiki may be helpful for you and your animal companion during the transition process, easing the anxiety and helping the process flow more easily. Intuitive animal communication also may be reassuring for both you and your animal friend during this time. Making the heart-to-heart and mind-to-mind connection with your animal friend can help family members - human and animal - find peace and resolution, or address unfinished business. Your animal friend may have something important to tell you as he or she prepares to leave this world, and may have something to say about treatment, food, or physical comfort. Animals often share feelings about whether or not they want or need assistance with their departure, their attitude toward their own passing, and a personal message for you. It may help to remember that death is not a barrier, but a transition. The spiritual connection and love endure.

As an intuitive and compassionate listener, a trained pet loss bereavement counselor, and someone who has experienced the deep grief of losing animal and human friends and of significant change, my role is to be present with you and support you as you work through the process of grief at your own pace.

Please see the 'Resources' page for a short list of recommended books on grief and pet loss, and links to websites with extensive pet loss support resources, including guidance when pets go missing.