While life may throw many painful moments our way, there's nothing quite like losing a pet — especially since this form of grief can feel lonesome to navigate when others may not fully understand it.
So to highlight this form of grief, I asked the BuzzFeed Community: "If you have ever lost a pet, what has your experience with pet grief been like, and how have you navigated that difficult time in your life?" A lot of people provided their stories along with pictures of their furry loved ones. Here's what they had to say below:
1."I lost my soulmate dog three months ago. He went everywhere with me — every day. The physical and emotional pain is brutal. I miss him every minute. I hate coming home because he’s not here. I hate going out because he can’t come. My life is no longer joyful. He was my best friend. I sleep a lot and don’t go out much because people think I should be over it by now. Unless you have a special connection with your dog, it’s hard to understand for most people. No disrespect to humans in my life who have died; this is just a different kind of loss because I had to decide to let him go. The cancer got him. I only had seven years with him."
2."I recently experienced the unexpected passing of my dog Bentley after almost 12 years together. He was a Maltipoo that I had since he was six weeks old. He has been with me through much of my adult life — he was even at my wedding — and he was the reason I was able to manage my depression when I had a dark time in my life. Without him, my home does not feel like a home, and a day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of him. The grief I feel is worse than I have felt for my father dying or any other relative. I’ve tried to cope by talking with others who have experienced a pet loss, as well as talking about it in weekly therapy. I also have a cuddle clone made of him that I will hug whenever I feel sad and miss him. I also have a gravestone for him outside in my backyard with his picture that I talk to all the time. It’s been quite the emotional journey coping with his loss."
3."My husband had taken in our friends' cat when they lost their house. He did this before I even met him. She was the sweetest tuxedo girl. She eventually warmed up to me and became like our baby. Twelve years later, I was pregnant with our first child when she started to decline rapidly. We did our best to save her, but it was just her time. She passed away in October 2022. The loss hit us hard, especially with my being pregnant. It was difficult to think she wouldn't be here anymore. I swear I could see her walking around corners and feel her sitting on my lap. We still get teary at seeing her picture."
4."When I first moved out, I got two kitties. I lost the first one (Reba) when she was 8, but my other kitty (Tiger) made it to 19. My Tiger was my child. I even joked that I gave birth to her. We were attached at the hip! She was my soul kitty. When she died (almost nine years ago in May), my heart was broken. I don’t know how I got through the days that followed. Thankfully, I have an amazing husband who understood our bond. My best friend got me a necklace with my favorite picture of her so I could have her with me every day."
"I still will break down in crying when I think of her. My heart still feels broken from the loss; literally, my heart hurts when I think of her. The hole never closes. Thankfully, I have another kitty (Rogue), who I love with all my heart. I am still trying to save the money to get a memorial tattoo of my beloved Tiger. I have her ashes, and I plan on being buried/cremated with her so that we will be together forever."
5."I had never felt grief as hard as when we lost our 13-year-old dog Ruby. It was like a huge hole in my life opened up. I kept looking for her in all her places. I would hear her nails on the hardwood floor. What helped me was being with other dogs. The day she died, our dear friends invited us over for drinks, and their two dogs just sat with us. Their older dog put her paw on me and looked deep into my eyes. They knew! After a few months, we got a new dog and then another. They are wonderful little girls and remind me so much of parts of Ruby's personality. I'm not a spiritual person, but I do believe she sent them to us."
6."My love, my sweet girl! Abby made it to 18 years old, and one day past her birthday. I had her since I was 18 and was devastated. My cat woke me up every morning and slept in my arms every night. I took it really hard. I got a charm on my Pandora bracelet. I wrote an obituary. I still couldn’t sleep right. One of my best friends got me a weighted stuffed animal that is a white cat like my baby. I nicknamed it Fake Abby or 'fabby' for short, and I sleep with it every night. I highly suggest it if you lose an animal who sleeps with you."
7."I unexpectedly lost my sweet boy in a tragic car accident about a year ago. The guilt and pain I felt was indescribable. I laid in bed for three days straight, and when I finally got up, my whole body was sore from being rolled up in a ball and crying. For months, I felt an intense pain that I didn't know was possible. My mental state went into such a dark place, and eventually, I had to reach out for help through therapy. His one-year anniversary recently passed, and luckily, I got the help/tools I needed to accept it. It's still hard, but I'm better mentally now. Nothing and no one will ever replace him, but I'm glad he was still in my life. I still get him flowers every month and put them next to his ashes, my sweet baby Florence."
8."Well, this was a hard one for me: I lost my boxer, Fish Face, in August; it will now be three years ago. I posted so many pictures on Facebook that they all seem to haunt me all the time. She was my best friend. Before her passing, we bought another boxer puppy, hoping she would relate to it, and she did. When we returned from the vet without Fish Face, our other dog knew something was up and barked at the front door every time the doorbell rang for about a week. We had Fish Face cremated. I keep her ashes on my desk, and not a day goes by when I don't think about the good times we had."
9."I lost my beloved dog almost seven months ago. He lived to the age of 15 and was my first dog. I cried almost nonstop for two months after his death. I still cry now if I think about him for more than a few minutes. I loved him very much. He died after an attack by another dog who was off-leash in a non-off-leash park. So the manner of his death made it extra hard. I met with a pet grief counselor for months and even did some energy healing sessions, and still, I felt tortured about the way he passed. Finally, I reached out to a pet psychic and animal communicator who told me that my dog sees his death as a hero's death. He feels that he died a valiant death protecting me from the off-leash dog. Hearing from the animal communicator that my dog had a hero's death changed everything for me."
10."I had to put my cat of 15 years down. She declined really fast but wouldn’t let go, and I couldn’t stand to see her struggling, so I had to do it for her. It was the first time since I was 2 years old that I didn't have any cats in the house. So, as I knew she was declining, I started looking at local shelters to find cats to bring in. Now, I know many may not agree and think it’s ‘replacing’ the dying cat, but as someone so used to having cats, I couldn’t imagine having a house without them. So, a couple of days after putting my cat down, I drove to a shelter and got two cats that are siblings."
"Bringing another pet in so quickly may not work for everyone — but seeing them be so active and playing and just being cats helped me remember my other cat as herself instead of just remembering her during her last stages.
If I didn’t get other cats, I would’ve grieved her heavily for a long time and been stuck with images in my head of her declining. Instead, my new cats helped me to reflect on all the good times my cat had had during her long life, and the grieving process was so, so much quicker."
11."We buried our lovely dog Maggie in the garden, so she is still with us at home. Her grave has figures, keepsakes on it, and a rainbow catcher. We speak to her grave when doing errands in the garden every day. It helps us feel connected to her."
12."I had the unfortunate experience of having to put two cats to sleep within less than 18 months. The first was unexpected; he was hit by a car, and his injuries were too severe. The other (just a week ago) was 17 years old and just at the end of her life. I'm still dealing with the grief of both. The best thing that has helped me has been talking about the positive memories with my husband and 11-year-old. For instance, one cat loved to lay in a box — we called it 'Boo's Spaceship' — and he would let us pick it up and pretend he was flying. Or how one of them loved getting kisses while the other would purr forever as long as she was being cuddled."
"We also look at pictures when they were healthy. Although the memories of them being sick or injured are the most fresh in our minds, it helps to talk about the happy memories. In a way, it's a bit selfish because it helps us remember that we gave both of them a very happy and loving home, with lots of affection and fun."
13."We lost our beloved dog, Penny, one month ago. My wife and I have been together for 11 years. We have been married for five years. We got Penny six months into dating, and she was with us the whole time. We are lost without her. Penny was the heartbeat of our family. She meant everything to us because we don’t have kids. We put all our love, affection, and training into the Penny basket, and now she’s gone. She loved everything we did, even the mundane tasks, and she added so much joy and entertainment to our lives."
Have you ever experienced pet grief? If so, tell us about your pet and your personal experience with pet loss in the comments below.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.