I have a paralysing fear that I am going to lose my dog

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It will come as no surprise that petloss is a common cause of concern for pet owners. These feelings increase as our pets age or become ill. As we let our imagination take over we can begin to experience real feelings of loss and pain. These are the signs of anticipatory grief.

What is happening when we feel like this?

The emotions that we are experiencing are very similar to those we would experience when bereaved. In this instance, though we are imagining or anticipating how we will react. Anticipatory grief is the name given to the feelings of loss and pain someone experiences when they are expecting the death of a loved one. What surprises many is that the strength of the emotions felt can be as strong as the feelings of grief experienced after a death.

How does anticipatory grief differ from standard grief?

Common or standard grief begins soon after a loss or death.  The symptoms and strength of emotions fade over time. Both Bereaved people and those showing signs of anticipatory grief may feel some or all of the following:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Sadness

Those with anticipatory grief may also experience the following symptoms. You may feel more concern for your pet and you may start to imagine what life will be like once your pet has died. What you are feeling is normal. It does not mean you love your pet any less.

Coping with anticipatory grief

Your pet may experience many small losses associated with a chronic illness – it can be overwhelming to watch as they lose their independence. What steps can you take to help you cope?

Allow feelings of grief help you to prepare

The strength of emotion felt after petloss often takes people by surprise. The fact that you are already experiencing a form of grief is evidence that you are close to your pet. Anticipatory grief can help to reduce the initial shock of bereavement.

Create moments for you and your family to enjoy

Knowing that the end is nearing, can provide you with opportunities to do your favourite activities; to spoil your pet knowing that an extra treat won’t cause any harm.

Talk to somebody

There’s no need to suffer in silence. Awareness of petloss and the associated grief is becoming more widely recognised. If you feel that your emotions are interfering with your daily life it is important to reach out for help. I have provided details on support at the bottom of this article.

Make final preparations

Once your pet passes away, there is normally a range of decisions you need to make. Have you thought about burial or pet cremation?

Pet cremations

Do you want your pet’s ashes? If the answer is yes, what type of ash container do you want? Have you decided on where you would like the cremation to take place? Do you wish to attend your pet’s cremation?

Pet burial

Do you want to use a pet cemetery or have a home burial? Do you have the landowner’s permission to bury your pet? Have you thought about how you would feel if you move home? Are you able to provide a suitable grave?

At CPC, we offer a free service to help pet owners plan for when the time comes. Our farewell planner is designed to capture your wishes; a copy of the planner can be left with your vet.

Sources of petloss support

If you need help to cope with anticipatory grief try talking to family of friends. However, if you cannot speak with them, you may want to talk with your GP. Alternatively, the following organisations may provide you with the support you need:

The Blue Cross

The Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service (PBSS) mission is to provide free and confidential emotional support. The lines are open from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm every day.
Tel: 0800 096 6606


Samaritans provide confidential non-judgemental support 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress.
Tel: 116 123

The Ralph Site – pet loss support

The Ralph Site is a not-for-profit online pet bereavement resource. It provides support and useful resources to pet carers. It consists of a website, a Facebook page and a busy private Facebook group.


signs of anticipatory grief


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