The Pain of Pet Loss


Guest article by Mimi Handlin, MSW, Certified Pet Loss Counselor, Fused Glass Artist

For many of us, the relationships we form with our pets are as important as the relationships we have with other family members or best friends. When a beloved pet dies, we lose not only their precious physical presence, but also everything else they gave us. For those of us who were lucky enough to have loved a special animal, here are some gifts we may have received from them every day:

  • Unconditional love and acceptance
  • Quick forgiveness
  • Feelings of safety and security
  • Warm and comforting touch
  • Loyal companionship
  • Someone who greets us with pure and exuberant joy
  • A walking or hiking buddy who is always ready to go
  • The sense of purpose that comes from caring for another being
  • The relief of stress that comes through stroking soft fur, playing or exercising together, or feeling the peace of a contented purr

Considering all of the above, how can their absence not break our hearts? Grieving is a normal response to losing a special and important relationship. If anyone, no matter how well-meaning, says something like, “It’s just a dog. You can always get another one.” Or, “You should get another cat right away,” they obviously have never experienced the amazing bond we can form with our pets. That’s like saying, “It was just your best friend, you can always get another one.” Yes, we may decide at a future time to get another animal, but it’s so important for our healing to first let ourselves grieve and mourn the loss of our cherished companion.

We all grieve differently. Strategies such as writing about our pet, expressing our feelings with others who understand, reminiscing, looking at photos, creating a tangible memorial or holding a service, and letting the tears flow can help us heal through our pain. I love this quote by Elizabeth Alexander: “The story seems to begin with catastrophe but in fact began earlier and is not a tragedy but rather a love story. Perhaps tragedies are only tragedies in the presence of love, which confers meaning to loss. Loss is not felt in the absence of love.”

If you would like some extra support to cope with your loss, I offer pet loss counseling by phone nationwide and also create custom fused glass memorials to honor the love you shared with your cherished animal. To see photos of my fused glass memorials or to learn more about pet loss grief support, please visit; I would be honored to help.