4 min read

How to Grieve a Pet Who’s Crossed the Rainbow Bridge


Written by Adam Lee-Smith

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 02/28/2022, edited: 07/26/2022

Losing your beloved pet is gut-wrenching. For many pet parents, losing a pet is the same as losing a close family member. 

Grieving a pet who's crossed the rainbow bridge is especially hard when others don't recognize how important your pet is to you. Pet parents who have lost a fur-baby should take time to feel all their feelings and reflect on life with their four-legged friend. Here are a few ways to do that.

How to grieve your lost pet

Grieving the death of a pet is rarely straightforward and can quickly become overwhelming. The healing process can be long, so it's essential you take it one step at a time and go at whatever pace feels most comfortable to you.

Give yourself time to grieve.

Finding time to sit down, reflect, and properly feel your emotions can be difficult. Unfortunately, the world keeps spinning even though you're grieving, as much as you'd love for everything to slow down so you can breathe. Ensure you take time to grieve — stuffing your feelings away will only prolong the healing process.

Don't let anyone tell you how you "should" feel.

Grieving a lost pet is an extremely personal experience. People who have never had a pet may not understand the gravity of the situation and may behave as if you're overreacting. Other pet parents who have lost a pet may have expressed their grief differently. Try your best to shut out other people's opinions about how you "should" grieve.

Talk to someone who understands your grief.

Support from others is integral to the healing process. Surround yourself with and talk to people who understand your grief, such as close family members, friends, and even your veterinarian. If members of your family or friends are unsympathetic, seek out support groups, reach out to online message boards, or call a pet loss helpline.

Here are a few places you can find online support for the loss of a pet:

elderly red setter lying down in a field

Remember that self-care is essential.

The emotional toll of losing a pet can affect your ability or willingness to care for yourself. But proper self-care will go a long way toward your recovery. Try your best to eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and move your body in a way that feels good to you.

Exercising with or without your pet will release endorphins, which will help boost your mood. If you have other pets, keeping up with their routine can help. Your other pets may also be grieving, so maintaining some normality will help them recover just as much as it'll help you. 

Don't rush to get a new pet.

You might think that rushing to get a new pet will help you get over your grief; however, this often isn't the case. You need to take time to fully process the loss. Otherwise, you may end up with a negative association with your new pet or developing unrealistic expectations by comparing them to your lost one. Wait until you have fully processed the loss before getting a new pet.

Don't be scared to seek professional help.

If you're struggling with your grief, don't be scared to seek out professional help. Depression and anxiety are common among grieving pet parents. If you feel like you're struggling with your mental health, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

black and white spotted dog posing in a photography studio

Ways you can remember your pet

Remembering your pet in a meaningful way can go a long way to helping the grieving process. You'll find many ways you can prepare for the end of your pet's life and create lasting memorials. Acts of remembrance will help you remember the good times you shared with your pet and help you say goodbye properly. 

Create a memorial.

The guilt associated with feeling like your pet is being forgotten can sometimes hold up the grieving process. Placing a plaque or a small memorial in your garden can help you deal with the anguish of losing your pet. 

Get creative with your memorial.

Many pet parents will want to create a special and lasting memorial to their pet. Consider sponsoring a bench at your dog's favorite park, taking a plaster cast of their paw before they pass away, or commissioning a painting of your pet. 

elderly black and white dog looking at camera

Plan a memorial service.

Holding a funeral for your fur-baby is sometimes the best way to say goodbye. Standing up in front of your friends and family and getting your emotions off your chest can be one of the most cathartic experiences for a grieving pet parent. 

Organize a photoshoot.

Photographs are one of the best ways to remember your pet. At some point during your pet's twilight years, consider organizing a professional photoshoot. Get creative with outfits, backdrops, and poses. Once you've got your pics, add them to a scrapbook or photo album so you can look back on them in those difficult or sentimental moments.

Make a charitable donation in their memory.

Setting up an annual donation in memory of your pet to an organization you support is a great way to remember your pet and regain a sense of purpose. Even a small one-time donation will go a long way toward helping animals in need.

If you're experiencing the indescribable grief of losing a pet, our hearts go out to you, and we hope this article brings you some peace and comfort. If you'd like to explore other resources on grieving the death of a pet, check out our related guides:

Comments (2)

Cat Exotica


Thank you for contributing such a thoughtful and touching comment that you have added to the discussion.



Needing support in greiving the loss of my beloved dog of 17 years and struggling with the loss
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