Navigating The Stages Of Grief After Pet Loss

At present’s cats have a mean lifespan of round 15 years, up from simply 7 years within the 1980s. Whereas some small canine breeds ceaselessly reside into their teenagers, massive and large breed canines usually have a lot shorter common lifespans, solely gracing our lives with their presence for 7-9 years. As a result of our pets have a lot shorter lifespans than we do, most pet mother and father will expertise the heartbreaking lack of a pet. For many people, pets are household, and navigating the phases of grief will be each bit as painful.

The Levels of Grief After Pet Loss

The 5 phases of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, despair, and acceptance—as described by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, are acquainted to many. The late Dr. Wallace Sife, founding father of the Affiliation for Pet Loss Bereavement (APLB) expanded on these phases as they relate to pet loss. He finally labeled six phases of grief that pet mother and father expertise when their beloved animal passes over the Rainbow Bridge.

Dr. Sife’s six phases of grief after pet loss embody shock and disbelief; anger, alienation, and distancing; denial and disbelief; guilt; despair; and determination. Grieving pet mother and father usually expertise all six of those phases. Nonetheless, as with the Kübler-Ross mannequin, the depth of every stage and the order they’re skilled differ from individual to individual.


Whereas the phases of grief don’t hit everybody in the identical order, the shock is sort of at all times the primary. After we are in shock as a result of lack of a liked one we aren’t totally capable of course of the state of affairs. It’s simply unbelievable that we’ll by no means once more hear our furbaby’s voice welcoming us residence. It surrounds us in a surreal sense of disbelief.

A way of numbness typically units in after we are in shock, surrounding us in a surreal sense of disbelief. It protects us from the worst of the ache. For some pet mother and father, this stage of grief lasts simply a short time, whereas others could require every week or two to maneuver via it.

Anger, Alienation, and Distancing

Anger is a pure response to demise. Whether or not the anger is directed at a dashing automobile, the medical doctors, the illness, your self, and even your loved one pet, it’s a regular a part of grieving.

Be cautious when appearing on emotions of anger incited by loss, nonetheless. You will need to do not forget that whereas the anger related to loss is a traditional a part of grieving, it is probably not rooted in actuality. Throughout this stage of grief folks generally really feel much less social and will isolate themselves considerably from others.


Denial, like shock, helps us to attenuate the ache we really feel from a loss. It slows down the method of adjusting to your new actuality and helps to emotionally cushion the blow. Denial may additionally lead you to really feel that you’re completely tremendous, effectively earlier than you truly are.

Many individuals make the impulsive resolution to get a brand new pet throughout this stage of grief. Though it’s actually not unsuitable to get a brand new pet immediately, you will need to study our motives and our readiness to just accept the brand new pet earlier than beginning our search.


Guilt is one other a vexing however pure response to the demise of a liked one. We are sometimes topic to rumination after loss, worrying over what-ifs and regrets moderately than specializing in the nice instances. Whereas feeling guilt related to dropping a pet is pure, within the majority of instances, it’s also unfounded.

The stage of guilt will be straightforward to wallow in, but it surely doesn’t have to go on perpetually. Speak to somebody you belief and take constructive ahead actions to assist transfer via this era. Actions memorializing life together with your pet—creating movies or picture album, internet hosting a fundraiser, or writing down your reminiscences—will be very therapeutic.

stages of grief after pet lossMelancholy

This stage of grieving is commonly probably the most tough to navigate. That is after we really feel the true weight of our loss. We undergo cycles of unhappiness and apathy, typically dropping curiosity within the exterior world. It’s an isolating expertise, however a wanted one. It, like the opposite phases of grief earlier than it, helps us to adapt to our new world.

If you’re feeling the load of your isolation too closely throughout this stage, attain out to family and friends that have been acquainted with your pet. Discussing your unhappiness and reflecting on moments of happiness may also help to course of the tough feelings surrounding the loss.


Decision is often the final stage of processing grief. It’s when we’ve lastly accepted and are available to phrases with the loss. We’re higher capable of look again on our reminiscences with happiness—nearly all of the mourning has handed.

Though we’re not fighting our companion’s demise at this level, we should expertise ache, unhappiness, and even remorse. As soon as we’ve moved into the decision stage, survival responses resembling denial, guilt, and anger are much less prone to emerge.

The Takeaway

After we love one thing, we settle for that the heat of its love is definitely worth the ache of its loss. It’s the value we pay, and it’s a small value in comparison with the enjoyment our companions give us. Grief has a distinct timeline for each state of affairs—particularly the phases of grief after pet loss. It may be affected by the depth of the bond you had together with your pet, your help system, the kind of passing, and your individual, distinctive persona. What passes in just some weeks for some pet mother and father could final a 12 months or extra for others.

Be variety to your self, the place ever you land on that spectrum, and finally you’ll heal.

This 12 months has actually been a rollercoaster. So whether or not you’re grieving a loss or simply dealing with what’s forward, listed below are some recommendations on how to deal with uncertainty. 

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