Traveling Dog Lady: Grieving the loss of a pet -- The Pet Lover's Code, 10 rights of a grieving pet parent

Monday, August 17, 2015

Grieving the loss of a pet -- The Pet Lover's Code, 10 rights of a grieving pet parent

Written and created by Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD.

Though you should reach out to others as you journey through grief, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one should try to take away from you. The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful responses from hurtful ones. 

1. You have the right to grieve the death of a pet. You loved your pet. Your pet loved you. You had a strong and profound relationship. You have every right to grieve this death. You need to grieve this death. You also need to mourn this death (express your grief outside yourself). 

2. You have the right to talk about your grief. Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk about your grief. Other pet lovers who have experienced the death of a pet often make good listeners at this time. If at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent. 

3. You have the right to feel a variety of emotions. Confusion, anger, guilt, and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey after the death of a pet. Feelings aren’t right or wrong; they just are. 

4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. After the death of a pet, your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel like doing. 

5. You have the right to experience “griefbursts.” Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but it is normal and natural. 

6. You have the right to make use of ritual. After a pet dies, you can harness the power of ritual to help you heal. Plan a ceremony that includes everyone who loved your pet. 

7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality. At times of loss, it is natural to turn to your faith or spirituality. Engaging your spirituality by attending church or other place of worship, praying, or spending time alone in nature may help you better understand and reconcile your loss. 

8. You have the right to search for meaning. You may find yourself asking, “Why did my pet die? Why this way? Why now?” Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. Ask them anyway. 

9. You have the right to treasure your memories. Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of a special companion animal. Instead of ignoring your memories, find ways to capture them and treasure them always. 

10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal. Reconciling your grief after the death of a pet may not happen quickly. Remember, grief is best experienced in “doses.” Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of a beloved pet changes your life forever. 

Note from k2k9:  I would only add that these same "rights" apply to the loss of a human, as well. There is no such thing as "getting over it".  Grief has no timeline.  There is nothing wrong with you if you grieve for a long time, or a short time.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  Take as much, or as little, time as you want.


  1. OMG! Is this karma of what?? I'm grieving the loss of my sweet Callie - who went to Heaven last week - and here I find this post about grieving

    1. Hello Northern Girl, I am SO sorry you lost your Callie. Was Callie a cat, or dog? One of my pets is Cali (a cat). I hope you are doing ok. Grieving a pet is one of the most difficult things. A lot of people don't understand the way the big void that is left behind when a pet dies. I hope my re-posting The Pet Lover's Code has helped you in some way. My thoughts go out to you during this difficult time. Keep checking back, because I will be doing more posts about pet loss and grieving.

  2. Hi Kathleen! "Northern Girl" is my Google name, but you know me as Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom at My Golden Life. My sweet Callie, like her sister, Shadow, was a Golden Retriever dog. I am doing okay, a little better each day. I keep coming back to this post when I need some moral support, along with comments on my blog and Facebook posts, emails, and sympathy cards. I will keep watching for more posts. I hope you have a great day and weekend!!

    1. Oh dear!! Sorry, I did not realize it was you!! Thank you SO much for coming back to my post, it means a lot to me to know that something I post on my little blog might be helping you feel better. <3 It is so hard to say goodbye to them. Have a wonderful weekend. The next few weekends, I am attending a lot of pet festivals (Pet Expo, Woodstock, Pet Rock, etc.) it helps to feel like I'm doing something in honor of the ones I loved, as well as giving my current dogs something fun to do! Have a great w.e.!


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