Grieving a Pet is Painful and Difficult But It’s Healthy Too

woman crying into her handsA couple of weeks ago I lost my cat of thirteen years. I got her as a three-month-old kitten and she was obsessed with me from the minute I met her. She followed me all over the house and would even wait for me outside the shower door. Every evening she would sit on my chest and purr, for 13 years. When my oldest daughter was born she would come to me every night after my daughter was asleep and have time with me. No one else would do. She only tolerated everyone else. I never dreamed how hard it would be grieving a pet.

Her Suffering

She suffered for almost 10 of those years with various side effects of kidney and renal failure. The last six months of her life we actually had to give her fluid via IV every day. Despite her pain, she never wavered in her love and dedication to me. She was my comfort and my therapy.  That Friday morning I found her unable to stand up or keep her eyes open for long, but still alive. Luckily, one of our good friends was able to come by right away and watch the kids while I took her to the vet. I held her when she passed and I am getting necklace with her paw print on it.

Needless to say the last few weeks have been hard. My kids knew right away that I needed some time to be alone and just cry. As luck would have it, my husband was out of town at that time so I went through the motions of what the kids needed and retreated to my room. Often. I feel like all the five stages of grief ran though me the first couple of days and even now, I have moments when I am just not ok. 

Although going through grieving a pet is not the same as losing a spouse, child or another family member, pet grief is difficult and is still grief. Grief is a necessary and healthy process that someone goes through when someone or something is lost in life.

The five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance can take a short or long period of time depending on the event and person.

Grief can be symmetrical or come in waves, and sadly enough, some people never progress to acceptance. Failure to work through stages of grief can cause anxiety, social avoidance, unhealthy relationships and host of other problems. Grief is a good thing, and we should let ourselves walk through it.

So cry in the shower, talk it out with a trusted friend, frame those pictures and allow yourself to be sad. We have all lost dreams, people and fur babies in this lifetime. Losing things that are so important to us is an unfortunate part of life. But when we allow ourselves to work through them it creates pathways to new exciting things that we never thought we would experience.


Dawn Shreeve is an adoptive mother of four special needs kiddos; long-time educator, beach lover, and advocate of all things adoption. Dawn holds a BS in Psychology from Oral Roberts University and a MEd in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of North Texas. She currently serves as a Tinkergarten Leader in the South Shore area and is a Co-Founder of Seas The Connection, an organization who works to bring relaxing retreats to Adoptive and Foster moms. Dawn, her husband Michael and kids moved to the Tampa Bay area in December of 2016 and love living near the beach in such in such a rich multicultural area