Understanding the 5 Stages of Grief After Pet Loss

Whether you are mentally preparing for the loss of a sick pet or in those raw first days following their death, the emotions you are experiencing can feel overwhelming. It’s important to accept that grief is natural and there’s no one-size-fits-all timeline for coping with the loss. However, there are generally 5 stages of grief that you can expect to experience following the passing of your beloved pet. 

First published by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, these stages have become recognized as the different emotions most people feel when dealing with different types of grief.

Let’s take a closer look at each stage to help you feel more prepared for what you might feel over the coming weeks, months, and even years. 

Stage 1: Denial

Following the death of a pet, it’s normal to be in denial that this is your new reality. It’s our body’s way of helping to dull the shock of the initial loss, so it’s a bit easier to navigate the pain when the loss is still fresh. 

During this stage, you may think you hear your pet in the other room or see them out of the corner of your eye. This is a normal part of the grieving process and will ultimately help you move on to the other stages of grief. 

Stage 2: Anger

Denial is usually followed by anger when the reality of the loss starts to set in. Even though you may rationally know that there was nothing that could have been done to prolong your pet’s life, you might look for someone to blame, whether it’s yourself, a family member, or the vet.

It’s also normal to feel guilt during this stage, thinking about whether you could have done anything differently to prevent the loss. It’s important not to bottle up your feelings during this stage. Instead, find a healthy way to work through your feelings by talking to someone, journaling, etc. 

Stage 3: Bargaining

Feelings of guilt are also common during the bargaining phase, where you might feel a desperate sense of yearning to have your pet back by your side. When you’re in the bargaining stage of grief, you will probably find yourself thinking, “I’d do anything to cuddle with my cat one more time,” or “If only I could take my dog on one last walk.” 

It’s important to remind yourself that there’s nothing you can do now or in the future that can reverse the loss. Many people find it helpful to talk to friends, family members, or even a support group during this stage of grief. 

Stage 4: Depression

This period of deep, heavy sadness, is often the most obvious stage of the grieving process. You will enter this stage as the reality of the loss of your pet starts to set in and you come to terms with the finality of death. 

Allow yourself to feel and work through the sadness while taking care of yourself at the same time. Remember that everything you’re feeling is valid and normal and that while the sadness of losing your pet will never go away, it will become easier to cope as time passes. 

Stage 5: Acceptance

The final stage of grief is acceptance. This isn’t to say that you’ll become ok with your pet’s death, rather you’ll get to a point where you have accepted your new reality and are adjusting to life without your pet by your side. 

Eventually, you’ll start to notice that looking at pictures or talking about memories of your pet isn’t quite as painful. And while your pet can never be replaced, you might start thinking of getting another pet in the future once you reach this stage. 

Here to Help in Every Stage

Remember that the time it takes to move through these stages of grief will vary for every person. No matter where you’re at in the grieving process, Pet Passages is here to help with bereavement support, pet loss resources, and memorialization ideas

If you need assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact your local Pet Passages today.