Pet Loss and Grief

Pet loss is a tragic event and the pet owner’s grief is never underestimated at VMC. We all strive to reduce the stress and strain for the pet owner during such an unbearable situation.   Most of the staff members at VMC have had our own heart breaking experiences with the loss of our own pets. Some of us have been fortunate enough to have gone through this process here, at VMC, surrounded by supportive friends who are known to us. We are very aware that the majority of our clients are among (relative or literal) strangers while they are here and in all likelihood have no control over timing or circumstances. Unfortunately, we have no way of changing that sad fact, but our own experiences inspire us to greater levels of caring and compassion.

While every pet owner’s response to grief is individual, there are certain shared feelings that many people experience. By understanding the grieving process, you can be better prepared to deal with your grief and to help other family members who share in your loss.

Phases of Grief

There a several commonly accepted phases of grief, although not everyone will experience them all or in any particular order.

  • Denial
    Often, the more sudden the death, the more difficult the loss may be to accept. This stage may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours or maybe a few days.
  • Anger and Guilt
    Anger may be directed at people you normally love and respect, and may include family, veterinarians and staff. You may want to blame others for not recognizing the illness sooner, for not preventing the situation, or for not being able to afford treatment. You may blame others for their role (or perceived role) in the situation, such as allowing your pet to be injured.
  • Depression
    Symptoms of depression after the loss of the pet can be very severe – many pet owners report a greater sense of loss after losing a pet than after losing a human family member. During this period, it is important to know that other people have experienced similar feelings, understand your grief, and are supportive.
  • Acceptance and Resolution
    Healing truly begins at this stage. Thoughts and memories of your pet begin to be filled with more love and less pain. Memorializing your pet or honoring their memory may help in your acceptance and resolution.