Coping with the Death of a Pet
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together...
Pets are a big part of our lives, and even though their passing is inevitable, it is a painful event. The relatively brief time they have to spend with us makes their loss all the more painful; we wish they could be with us for decades, but we know that's not possible.
The following are some hints and resources for helping you or someone you know make it through this difficult time:
Realize that your feelings are totally normal. It's fine -- even expected -- to grieve and feel sad. Just as you would mourn the loss of a person close to you, you are mourning the death of a companion animal who loved you, and whom you loved. Be patient with yourself, and give yourself space and time to grieve. Everyone grieves differently, so there is no "right" amount of time and "right" way to mourn.
Also realize that not everyone will understand your grief. There may be those who say "it's just a pet," though you know that's not true (at least the "just" part). Yet a lot of people feel this way... and they may say things like this in an attempt to make you feel better. Understand that they're not saying things like this to be mean -- they have good intentions, and they're only trying to help.
Talk about it. Anyone who is a "pet person" will be able to empathize with what you're going through. Share memories of your pet, especially with anyone who might have known that pet. Talk about what you're feeling at any given moment. People don't have to give you profound insights to be good listeners -- they just have to listen.
Seek out support resources in your area. There may be pet loss support groups in your community that you can join to share your feelings. Your veterinarian, public library or place of worship are good places to start your search. Online, Facebook and other social media sites have many pet loss support groups.
Memorialize your pet. If you bury your pet, create a grave marker or plaque. Allow yourself to be creative. Host a memorial service and invite your pet-loving friends. Do whatever feels right to you and brings you comfort.
Do an activity to honor your pet. Volunteer or donate to an animal-related cause (or any cause you want to support) in your pet's memory. Create an artwork or write about your pet. Assemble a photo album of your favorite pictures of your pet.
The following are some additional resources:
ASPCA Pet Loss Support Hotline: 877-474-3310
Pet Loss Help: Common questions about pet loss, including advice on how to cope with the decision to euthanize, trauma, depression and guilt
Rainbowbridge.com Grief Support Center: Online forum, chat room and other resources
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 anytime for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
Updated March 15, 2023
DISCLAIMER: These resources are provided for information purposes only. Purrfect Angels Cat Rescue makes no warranty as to the performance or availability of these resources, and inclusion of a resource here does not necessarily imply endorsement. Purrfect Angels Cat Rescue has no interest, financial or otherwise, in any of these listed resources.