Pet Loss & Grief

The loss of a pet can affect people differently and can bring intense sorrow and grief. There is not a one size fits all when it comes to the healing process after loss. Family members may grieve differently or feel the loss more intensely than others. There is no “right” time to feel like it’s time to move on.

While family members may be able to help with the healing process there are also outside resources that can help. Should you feel like you need to talk to someone, there are support groups in our area where you can share your experience or just be around others that are experiencing a similar loss.

Pet Loss Grief Support Groups

All group meetings are free and meet at 7:00pm. These meetings are led by Kathy Reiter, a psychiatric social worker who has a specialty in grief and bereavement.

  • Animal Welfare League of Alexandria: First Wednesday of each month
  • Animal Welfare League of Arlington: Second Wednesday of each month
  • Fairfax County Animal Shelter: Third Wednesday of each month

Distance Therapy

Distance therapy is also available and just as helpful. Click here for the website created by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC. She has been a hospice counselor for 17 years. Her website is designed to help those who are anticipating or morning the loss of their loved ones. This website includes discussion groups, healing courses, resources, and a blog to help you find comfort.

Common Questions

When will I get over this?

There is no specific time frame for anyone to be able to move on when they lose a pet. A common feeling is for people to just want to feel better and be done with the hurt and the pain, but grief has no fast track. Grief can last months, weeks or even years. Typically, the intensity of the grief to lessen over time. Grief is a process that has timelines all its own and only you can know when you feel like you’re recovering.

How can I help my grieving pet?

Humans are not the only ones that feel the loss of a pet. Pets develop relationships with other pets just the same as humans. Our pets will also respond to OUR sadness as we mourn the loss of a pet.

A study conducted by the ASPCA showed that over 60% of pets experience four or more behavioral changes after the loss of a companion. Signs can include: changes in appetite, vocalization, habits, personality, grooming, bathroom and even seeking behavior (looking for their lost companion).

To provide some sort of closure for your pet, it might be helpful to let them investigate the deceased. Even though they may not be able to fully grasp the concept of death, one last visit can help them understand that their companion is gone. During this time it is helpful to maintain their normal feeding schedules and offer them extra love.

Will I ever get another pet?

After the loss of a pet, it is normal to feel a hole that needs to be filled in your heart. That loss of routine that was so normal is now gone. As you go through the grief process, you may feel it’s time to bring home a new pet. Some people need to get a new pet immediately to keep their mind off of their loss and start forming a new bond. Other people can take years to want to get another pet. Some people do not intend to ever get another pet. There is no right and wrong – only you will know when the time is right. Just keep in mind that getting a new pet is not replacing your pet. Our pets may leave us but they are never forgotten.