We all know that grief comes in all different shapes and sizes. We grieve when we lose someone or something we care about, and just as every love is different, every loss is different and every grief will be different. Part of the reason grief is so difficult is the fact that it is so personal every time.

One of the most personal forms of grief can come from the loss of a pet. On the one hand, this seems kind of obvious—we all love our pets, of course we are going to be sad when they die. But it is still common for people to dismiss or gloss over the death of an animal as if it isn’t worth talking or thinking about.

The people who do this, especially if they don’t have pets themselves, seem to make good points when they act like it isn’t a big deal—losing a dog or a cat (or a bird, rabbit, or goldfish) is hardly the same as losing a child, sure they’re cute but there are millions of them, if you lose one you can simply get another. And we all know these animals have a limited lifespan, so it isn’t like you didn’t know your pet was going to pass on sooner or later.

Most of these are decent points, or at least facts that are difficult to argue. But they fail to take into account the single most important factor of why we grieve any loss, and that is love. Our relationships with our pets are special: yes, we love them because they are cute and funny, but we also love them because they are ours. 

It is true that the people in our lives are important in ways that animals can never be, but we have to share them. Our friends, partners, parents, even our children, are going to have many other people and relationships in their life, as they should. They have to live their own lives, go to their own jobs, raise their own families. No matter how close you are to another person, there will always be some elements of their life that you won’t be a part of.

The love of a pet, on the other hand, is something you can have all to yourself. Your dog doesn’t have bills to pay, she just wants to run around and play with you. Your cat isn’t trying to earn a college degree—he just wants some ear scratches and a nice spot in the window to take a decent nap. Nobody else is going to get to know your pet like you do, nobody else is going to love them like you do or be loved by them, the way you are.

Of course, we know our pets can’t live forever, but that doesn’t mean our relationships with them aren’t real and important. And knowing we will have to say goodbye to them someday doesn’t make that day any easier when it comes. 

Fortunately, more and more people are learning to treat grief over pet loss with the weight it deserves. Last year IDLM introduced a course for end of life pet doulas, for people who want to help pet owners go through this difficult transition. The love and grief we feel for our furry friends is as valid as any other, and it is important to remember and honor that. 

You Might Also Enjoy:


Tree of Life

When it comes to caring for others and for ourselves, there are so many tools and so much knowledge that comes into play, but there is nothing more valuable than connection with other people. This is why IDLM will be holding its very first Tree of Life conference in San Antonio this coming November.

Read More »
Doula Work

History of IDLM

Later this year, IDLM will be hosting the Tree of Life Conference in San Antonio. We are beyond excited for this event, which will be the first-ever conference held specifically by and for end-of-life doulas. As preparation, over the next few months this blog will host a series of articles showcasing the talents and accomplishments of the fabulous speakers and educators who will be presenting at the conference in November, and we figured the best place to start would be with our own Anna Adams, the founder of International Doula Life Movement. 

Read More »
Doula Work

Doula Tool Kit

One of the most common ways to describe the role of a death doula to people who are not familiar with this type of work

Read More »
Chat Live Via the FB Messenger App