Generously written by Mariah McConnell

 Pets provide humans with a source of comfort and companionship which means the death or loss of a pet can have serious impacts on owners. Many owners view their pet as a member of their family but will come into contact with people who do not understand this deep loss.

Did you know?

  • Humans connect with their pets through physical contact called comfort contact(Kwong & Bartholomew, 2011)
  • Pets can create increased feelings of connectedness and can help combat feelings of loneliness and alienation (Wong et al., 2019)
  • Individuals have reported that pet ownership increased their social connections, physical activity levels, and longevity of life (Mohanti, 2017)

It is no wonder that losing a pet is a painful experience. For many pet owners, the loss of a pet is equivalent to the death of a human (Park et al., 2021). It is normal that every person’s grieving process will look different but could include the following:

  • Crying
  • Sharing memories about your pet
  • Feelings of anger
  • Guilt
  • Isolation
  • Wanting closeness

Learning how to cope with the intense feelings of grief can help owners to process the loss. Self-care is an essential part of grief; each person’s self-care will look different but it is important to maintain throughout the grieving journey. Below are some low- and no-cost ways to do self-care:

  • Drinking water throughout the day
  • Listening to music or podcast
  • Talking to a friend or family member
  • Go for a walk
  • Cuddling up in your favorite blanket
  • Do some deep breathing
  • Stretching for 5, 10, or 15 minutes
  • Practice self-massages on your hands

No two grief journeys will look the same. It is important to keep in mind that grief is not “stages” but a cycle where some days will be good and others will be worse. Remember to be kind and gentle with yourself during challenging times.



Kwong, M.J. & Bartholomew, K. (2011) “Not just a dog”: an attachment perspective on relationships with assistance dogs. Attachment & Human Development, 13(5), 421-436. DOI: 10.1080/14616734.2011.584410

Mohanti, B.K. (2017). Grieving the Loss of a Pet Needs the Health System Recognition. Journal of Social Work in End-of-life & Palliative Care. 13(4), 215-218. DOI: 10.1080/15524256.2017.1385568.

Park, R.M., Royal, K.D., & Gruen, M.E. (2021). A Literature Review: Pet Bereavement and Coping Mechanisms, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. DOI: 10.1080/10888705.2021.1934839

Wong, P.W.C., Yu, R.W.M., & Ngai, J.T.K. (2019) Companion Animal Ownership and Human Well-Being in a Metropolis – The Case of Hong Kong. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(1729), 1-14. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph16101729