Remains and photographs of a deceased domestic cat. Grief of losing a pet.If you had a beloved pet as a child, you may have been overwhelmed with feelings of sadness and grief after he or she passed away. For many of us, this was our first experience with death. And as we age, we will most likely experience additional losses of our furry friends. Each and every time is sad and difficult.

Our pets bring us joy and laughter. They bring out the best in us, encouraging our playful side. They love us unconditionally and do not judge us or criticize what we say or do. They are always happy to see us and they are present in a way that most people are not. They love our affection and reciprocate in kind with purring sounds or wagging tails. We can be uninhibited around them and tell them our most private thoughts. Like our human children, they depend on us and fill our homes with an abundance of love.

So, when our pet dies, a relationship that once brought us pure love and joy now causes us great sorrow. A precious part of us is now gone.

The decision to prevent your pet from experiencing the pain of dying through euthanasia, giving them instead a gentle, peaceful goodbye, sometimes comes with feelings of guilt, adding to our misery. Did I wait long enough? Did I wait too long with too much suffering? Did I make this difficult decision for my pet or for myself?

It is common that we don’t talk about losing our pet. We may think others won’t understand our deep sorrow and grief, so we don’t share. We may think it is socially unacceptable to grieve an animal so deeply. A name for this is “disenfranchised grief.” It is like other losses we don’t share with others — for example, the loss of an unborn child, a job or a divorce. So, we suffer privately — in silence.

The loss of your pet is undeniably painful and the grief you feel is valid and unique to your own experience and your special relationship. But it is helpful to talk with others who understand and can help you along your journey as you grieve, while allowing you space for your sadness. It is healthy and normal to honor your relationship with your pet by expressing that special love — even through your tears.

Facilitated by KOKUA MAU (Nonprofit)
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Learn more about grief and the healing process: Help For The Bereaved — The Healing Journey (
– Hawaiian Humane Society
– Arms of Aloha
– Why everyone Should Talk About Pet Death, E.B. Bartels
– Pet Loss Grief Explained by Sarah Hoggan
– The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement