Grieving the Loss of a Pet: Resources for Coping

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Olive the French bulldog looking up and enjoy chin scratches

Grieving the loss of a pet can be incredibly difficult. But there are numerous support groups, hotlines, books, videos, and more that can help. Below are several grief resources for coping with pet loss.

Pet loss hotlines and support groups

Online resources for the death of a pet

  • Lap of Love offers a network of veterinarians nationwide that aims to help people with end-of-life care for their pets. The site includes resources for quality-of-life assessments and pet loss.
  • Letters to Pushkin allows you to express yourself and find healing through letter writing. You can write a letter directly to your pet, upload a photo, and if you wish make your letter public so that others can read it. You can also return to the website and read your letter days later.
  • The Argus Institute at the Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine honors the human-animal bond by providing compassionate support for the loss of a pet. The website contains links to pet loss resources, including support groups, individual counseling, and information on making end-of-life decisions for a pet.
  • The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement is a nonprofit group that's knowledgeable about the tender subject of pet death and dedicated to helping people during their bereavement. The website contains an extensive list of pet loss resources.
  • The Companion Animal Association of Arizona provides pet loss and grief resources, including a hotline and book recommendations.
  • Two Hearts Pet Loss Center contains pet loss and grief counseling resources for families with pets, as well as veterinary professionals.

Videos for coping with pet loss

Grieving the Loss of a Pet — 10-minute guided meditation      
Take a peaceful trip through Angels Rest with this guided meditation on pet loss and remembrance, led by Best Friends co-founder Cyrus Mejia. Breathe deeply and find healing with images of the beautiful red-rock landscape and words of comfort.

Pet loss grief; the pain explained — TEDx Talk with Dr. Sarah Hoggan      
Navigating through grief is not a straight line. As we learn to live with a loss, there is no timeline, no deadline; it is a process of discovery to be experienced at one’s own pace. This TEDx Talk is from Dr. Sarah Hoggan, an emergency veterinarian. In it, she shares her thoughts about pet loss and grief. The beginning is a bit sad, but if you stick with it, you will receive yet another perspective on a topic so near and dear to our hearts.

Walk with the Wind — by Sharon St. Joan      
Find peace and comfort with this beautiful memorial poem written by Best Friends co-founder Sharon St. Joan. As you listen to the poem’s healing words, take the time to breathe and soak in the gorgeous views of Angel Canyon.

Love Lives On

As a way to remember those we’ve lost, we've compiled these recordings from our workshop called Love Lives On: Pet Loss Journaling, hosted by Best Friends’ own Patty Hegwood and Coleen Ellis from Two Hearts Pet Loss Center. You can access the journal via this link. The following are links to Love Lives On session recordings:

Books to help with losing a pet

  • Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates by Gary Kurz can help you cope with the loss of a pet and tries to answer questions about pet afterlife.
  • Goodbye, Friend by Gary Kowlaski is full of sound, compassionate advice to get through the loss of a pet. Included are ideas for rituals and ceremonies, spiritual guidance, and readings for solace. Kowalski also includes advice on how to take care of yourself after the death of a pet and the importance of honesty when talking with children about this event.
  • Grieving the Death of a Pet by Betty Carmack is written by a nurse and professional pet loss counselor. This book draws from her experience of counseling people who have lost a beloved pet, as well as the loss of her own furry friends. Carmack offers pet loss support to counter “a world that reminds us repeatedly that grief for an animal doesn’t count as much as grief for a person.” The book is poignant and sometimes heartrending, filled with personal stories of love and loss.
  • P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna by Sarah Chauncey, illustrated by Francis Tremblay is a book for adults trying to cope with losing a feline soulmate. The author and illustrator’s belief that the love between a cat and their person is eternal is comforting and will be a source of solace for readers. 
  • Pet Loss: A Spiritual Guide by Julia Harris helps readers to understand the many emotional reactions to the loss of a pet, to assist children in coping with and recovering from their loss, and to learn how different spiritual belief systems recognize and counsel pet loss. Practical topics include what happens at a pet cemetery burial, cremation, or home burial; what legal arrangements are available; how to develop a ceremony to honor the pet; and how to cope with the trauma of a terminally ill or runaway pet.
  • Pet Loss and Human Emotion: Guiding Clients Through Grief by Cheri Barton Ross and Jane Baron-Sorensen is a unique guide on human-animal bonding that’s written for mental health professionals. The authors feel strongly that pet loss needs to be understood by therapists and others in the helping professions to better enable them to help clients through this type of grief. Citing several case studies, the book describes various techniques for helping clients cope with the death of a pet. There are chapters on working with children and older adults.
  • Saying Good-Bye to the Pet You Love by Lorri A. Greene, Ph.D. is written by a psychologist who is a leader in the field of pet bereavement. This practical but sympathetic guide validates the survivor’s often misunderstood feelings, explains the importance of the human-animal bond, and offers strategies for working through the grieving process. Topics include memorializing the pet, recognizing problematic thinking, finding support, dealing with guilt, and explaining the pet’s death to a child. The special needs of the guardians of working animals are addressed, as are self-help resources for older adults.
  • Three Cats, Two Dogs: One Journey Through Multiple Pet Loss by David Congalton sees the author talk about how he transformed his anguish over the loss of several pets into a commitment to abused and abandoned animals. This down-to-earth book offers solace and practical suggestions for coping with grief. Anyone who has an animal companion will find this story inspirational and hopeful.
  • When Only the Love Remains by Emily Margaret Stuparyk is a collection of poignant poems about pet loss.
  • Your Dog Memory Journal by Sherry Benjamins is a place to remember your furry soul mate when healing from loss and celebrating your special friend. The prompts encourage sharing memories by way of writing, photos, sketches, or poems. The art work is original and paper collage.

Pet loss books for children and teenagers

  • Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant will appeal to children from preschool to grade 2. The simple, colorful illustrations take the child on a journey to Dog Heaven or Cat Heaven, places of warmth and happiness. In Dog Heaven, there are “fields and fields and fields,” and in Cat Heaven, there are thousands of toys and soft angel laps in which to cuddle up.
  • For Every Dog an Angel and For Every Cat an Angel by Christine Davis are two short books that tell the story of the Rainbow Bridge. They are beautifully illustrated in whimsical watercolors and appropriate for a wide range of ages.
  • My Cat Is Blue by Sarah Sommer features rhymes, illustrations that evolve from grayscale to full color, and a story of pet loss that examines grief from the viewpoints of those directly affected by it and those in supporting roles.
  • Tear Soup by Pat Schweibert tells the story of a woman named Grandy who is making “tear soup.” It’s not specifically about the death of a pet (the reader is not sure what loss Grandy has suffered), so the book is relevant for any grieving process. The full-color illustrations are wonderful. The book is recommended for ages 4 to 8, but it has been a comfort to people of all ages.

Watch a video of author Sarah Sommer reading My Cat Is Blue aloud »

Understanding Your Grief Journey webinars

Coleen Ellis is an author, mentor, international speaker, consultant, and blogger. She is the recipient of the first certification in the United States for death and grief studies with a specialization in pet loss companioning from the Center for Loss in Fort Collins, Colorado. In 2004, she founded Pet Angel Memorial to address the unmet need for pet loss grief services. In 2009, she established Two Hearts Pet Loss Center to mentor and coach those who want to provide pet death care services to their communities. 

Below are a few of the webinars she has hosted for Best Friends that address pet loss grief to help us acknowledge, embrace, and cope with the loss of our beloved companions.

Why does it hurt so bad?    
The bond that we share with our pets is one like no other: pure, simple, and filled with unconditional love. And when we lose them, it affects us in a profound way. But many people feel ashamed to address and express their grief when their beloved pets pass because so many people in their lives don't understand or experience the joy of pet companionship. In this webinar, Coleen discusses permitting yourself to grieve your loss and not run away from your feelings simply because you think society will shame you and tell you your companion was "just a pet." She inspires us to embrace grief and shed tears because our pets deserve to be remembered. Coleen reminds us that grief exists because you loved your pet. You never get over it, but you do get through it.

 

What can I do to help myself?    
When your best friend passes, you might find it difficult to occupy the time. After all, your pet was a big part of your daily life and routine. In this webinar, Coleen discusses what we can do to help ourselves through the grief journey. She teaches us that when grief comes knocking, we invite grief in, acknowledge it, and do the work to get through it. She reminds us that, no matter where we are in our grief cycle, that’s where we are supposed to be. We should continue to honor all the chapters we had with our pet because to feel loss means that we loved.

 

Permission for rituals    
It can be healing to be mindful of special days we celebrated with our pets. Whether it’s a birthday, gotcha day, holiday, or any day of celebration, we should take the time to acknowledge the bonds shared with our pets by continuing traditions. In this webinar, you’ll learn how traditions can help you cope with your loss and how creating a memorial or a celebration of life can help you move through your grief.

The Rainbow Bridge poem

The Rainbow Bridge poem offers peace and comfort to those who just lost a beloved best friend. There are many versions of this poem, and the original author is unknown.

Rainbow Bridge

There is a bridge connecting Heaven and Earth.    
It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of all its beautiful colors.    
Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows,    
hills and valleys with lush green grass.    
When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place.    
There is always food and water and warm spring weather.    
The old and frail animals are young again.    
Those who were sick, hurt, or in pain are made whole again.    
There is only one thing missing.    
They are not with their special person who loved them so much on Earth.    
So each day they run and play until the day comes    
when one suddenly stops playing and looks up!    
The nose twitches! The ears are up!    
The eyes are staring, and this one runs from the group!    
You have been seen, and when you and your special friend meet,    
you take him in your arms and hug him.    
He licks and kisses your face again and again,    
and you look once more into the eyes of your best friend and trusting pet.    
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be apart.      
— Author unknown

Learn about Best Friends memorials and placement at Angels Overlook and Angels Rest »