My Pet Died, Now What? Dealing With Secondary Losses

Posted on

  • Share this page:

All the pet lovers out there understand that pet ownership is more than just that; it’s raising a family. Grieving over your pet’s departure can be just as painful and heartbreaking as losing a family member or a dear friend. It’s essential for pet parents to open up about pet loss and find ways to cope.

The fact that you’ve experienced a loss of a furry companion is stressful enough, but what about life after? Different people grieve differently, but all of us need support and comfort to move on. Here’s some helpful advice on overcoming the pain and grief inflicted by the death of a beloved pet, and how to deal with the secondary losses too.

my pet died

Coping with the aftermath – the struggles of secondary losses

What is a secondary loss? Simply put, everything that a bereaved pet owner needs to deal with emotionally without their departed pet can be considered a secondary loss. When mourning after a loss, we’re actually experiencing several griefs at the same time. Imagine a that the passing of your pet is like a stone being dropped into a pond. The first ripple, the death of your pet, has the greatest impact – yet each subsequent ripple is a new loss; a reminder of your new reality.

The disruption of an established routine

Life with furry friends means a bunch of fun ritualistic situations, whether they’re old or young. Walks, cuddling, feeding time, grooming, training, and playtime are all more or less embedded in our daily schedule, and when our four-legged companion is gone, we suddenly need to say goodbye to all of it. 

Even the sense of joy and excitement when calling out for your pet or telling them off for scratching the furniture sticks deep as a fond memory. This abrupt change of routine can be very stressful and detrimental to emotional healing.

The loss of social contacts

How many informal friendships have you made with other dog walkers? This informal network is often far more imporatant than many realise.

The loss of purpose 

Whichever role we assign to ourselves as pet owners (parent, friend, companion, caregiver, teacher, etc.), it usually involves many activities that revolve around our pet’s wellbeing and happiness. Losing an animal friend can actually mean losing a significant part of your purpose, which can leave a mark on your self-esteem and self-worth.

The loss of a companion and unconditional love

Unlike humans, animals can put all of their focus on a single person, which is what we, as pet parents cherish the most. It’s common for pet owners to consider pets their closest, most devoted, and loyal friends. Losing such support and a figure in life can disrupt your emotional state.

The first year after a bereavement is full of first-time reminders

Each time you experience a situation where you would have been with your pet is a potential trigger for feelings of loss. You will meet with people that don’t know what to say; some may avoid the topic, whilst others may try to minimise the grief you are feeling. No matter how upsetting that may be, please try to remember that no matter how clumsy people can be, they aren’t trying to hurt you further.

It’s important to remember that what you are feeling is entirely normal and that the strength emotion you feel will lessen.

How to deal with grieving over the loss of a pet

my dog died

Get busy and engage in new rituals

Although not a piece of advice for everyone, creating new routines could help you occupy your mind with useful activities and let time do its job. As mentioned above, our pets cover a considerable part of our daily activities, so trying to compensate for the lack of obligations can be the first step in healing.

Let yourself be sad and mourn

Some bereaved pet parents may find closure in expressing their feelings, regardless of how bad they’ve got. Don’t be afraid to cry, get angry, or just sad and quiet. Taking a few steps back to ultimately move forward is sometimes the only choice.

Hold a memorial service

Even if it’s just you attending the service, it’s a symbolic way of saying a final goodbye. Some pet parents choose to have their pet cremated and then scatter their cats or dogs’ ashes over their favorite place or make a memorial tombstone. Whatever feels comfortable and right, it’s up to you. 

Create a legacy

Sometimes the most efficient way to deal with death is to celebrate life. You can plant a tree in your backyard, make a small garden, or a fountain in your pet’s memory. Each time it blooms and develops will remind you of the precious time spent together.

My cat died

Turn your pet’s possessions into a symbolic reminder

Although the best idea is to dispose of most of your pet’s belongings, you can also turn some of them into a memorable object. A leash can become a necklace locket, while your parrot’s feathers can be framed into a beautiful wall decoration. Turn your departed cat’s favorite bowl into a decorative flower piece, or keep your Retriever’s bandana as a clothing item. Whatever evokes the best of memories can help you treasure your pet the way he or she deserves. 

Be open to new traditions

While your pet is gone, millions of other abandoned and forgotten animals still have a chance for a better life. You can turn your pet’s birthday into a day of hope for potential pets by donating food, supplies, or organising charity events in local rescue shelters. By doing so, you will honour your furry companion in the noblest and most meaningful way.

Consider adopting

Is there a better way of honoring your departed pet than giving unconditional love, care and comfort to another animal? Adopting a pet in need is not a replacement by any means, but an homage to moving on, healing, and, most importantly, continuing to cherish the importance of pet loving and providing for our animal companions.

Further reading: Tips for parents with Children who are grieving the death of a beloved pet

*PIN ME – My pet died.*

My pet died

7 responses to “My Pet Died, Now What? Dealing With Secondary Losses”

  1. Big Blue Sea says:

    If you’ve ever had a pet, you’d understand the joy of watching them grow up in front of your very eyes. Over the years, you develop such a close bond that you wish would never end. But as with all good things, that relationship must also meet its natural conclusion. As much as we dread it, the day will come when we have to say goodbye to our pet buddies.

  2. Big Blue Sea says:

    My beautiful Holly passed away ten years ago on the 29th January 2007. I last saw her at 4:00 pm in the afternoon and when I called her in for dinner she never came. We lived on acreage at the time and searched for her until the early hours of the evening. It was not until the morning, that we found her lifeless body in a paddock. I can still see her face and the way her fur had flattened on the side of her face which touched the ground. I felt deep sadness yet disbelief and physically sick. I think the bond we share with an animal is something much more unique.

  3. Melane says:

    I had to put my wee man, Oscar to sleep on Friday the 19th of November 2021 – the worst day of my life.
    He was and still is my world.
    Oscar was literally my light at the end of the tunnel full of darkness.
    He was always there for me, making me smile, cry, annoyed etc.
    He was my little bundle of joy and he liked to spread that joy to other people with his cheekiness.
    I feel like I have lost a part of my soul, and I would never have thought I would have built such a strong bond like I have with my Oscar.
    He understood me, and I understood him.
    He was all the family I ever needed, and I am devastated I couldn’t have had spent the rest of my life with him, now I am lost.
    And I dreaded this moment since I first laid eyes on him.
    It just shows that the bond with animals, is like losing a human being, I hate that there still is a stigma out there about animals.
    I hope people out there can realise that without animals, us humans are nothing.
    We need to show them our love, care and protect them, we owe animals a part of our life too.

    Oscar (my wee man) you are always loved and never forgotten. ❤

    • Lauren Billman says:

      Please accept our sincere condolences on losing Oscar. If you feel you are struggling, please do reach out and speak to one of a number of counselling sites for Pet Bereavement, such as The Blue Cross. Kind regards, The CPC Team.

  4. Sam says:

    Cats and dogs give us so much joy and even it is very painful to lose them every single time spent together was worth it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *