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Grieving the Death of a Pet

human silhouette at sunset

Grief works in its own way, in its own time.

In the middle of April, I helped my sweet dog Emmie transition to Spirit. Emmie passed away at home, helped by her vet and vet tech, and surrounded by myself, IamMaxRoper and her 3 cats, Billy, Raven and Mitzie. It was a beautiful and peaceful passing, for which I am very thankful.

I cried, I grieved and I occasionally yelled at the remaining 4 leggeds. Not because I was angry with them, but because that’s how my grief expressed itself at the moment.

For the most part, they understood where I was coming from and why I was acting like I did.

When I picked up Emmie’s ashes from the vet, I had to scurry out of there so I could ‘crash and cry’ in the comfort of my home, where I could express my grief without having it witnessed by any humans. I placed the box that contained Emmie’s ashes, as well as the Certificate of Cremation, on the bookcase where I could see it daily.

As time passed, my crash and cry sessions (sometimes called tea and tears sessions) became farther and farther apart.

And then, when the first fireworks went off right before the 4th of July, I realized this would be my first year without calming and caring for Emmie. It was a bittersweet 4th of July this year.

And then, I got a call from the vet, saying they had forgotten to give me Emmie’s pawprint.

I still mourn the passing of my sweet Emmie. We had been together for 14 or so years. At 2PM on a snowy April afternoon she was still with me in the physical, by 3:15PM on that same afternoon she had left the physical space.

I am still grieving. It comes in different ways, at different times and usually when I least expect it.

Emmie’s box of ashes and the Certificate of Cremation are still sitting on the bookshelf. The other day I thought I *should* move the box and place it in the container where I keep the ashes of my other animal family members. After all, I thought to myself, it’s *just* a box.

I couldn’t move the box of her ashes – it’s not yet time. For me, that is not *just* a box, that’s the way my beloved Emmie is here in the physical with me.

I know this shall pass, and there will come a natural, organic time when I will know it’s time to place Em’s remains with the others. But that time is not now.

We each experience grief in our own way and in our own time, and that is different for each individual.

If you are grieving the lost of a beloved animal companion, I hope that you will be kind to yourself and go with the flow of your particular grief. Grieving our beloved animal companions is one way we honor them and the relationship we had/have with them. Unfortunately, this is not a common courtesy we allow ourselves in our culture and society.

Should you find yourself debilitated by the grief, by all means reach out for resources to help yourself during this time. The book Good Grief: Finding Peace after Pet Loss is one excellent book resource available on this topic. If you find yourself needing more help, reach out to another, a friend or a professional such as myself, who understands pet grief and can help you integrate this experience into your life.


Janet Roper

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  1. Azar ATTURA July 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    I am so sorry!! When Princess died I acted like a “feeding and watering robot” to my other 2 cats– all the emotion had drained out of me. That lasted for a few days, and i kept apologizing to my cats, who I hope understood my grief.
    When your grief is the deepest, perhaps it is because Emma is visiting you in spirit and YOUR spirit recognizes her presence.


    • Janet July 16, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

      Hi Azar, I have been ‘seeing’ Emmie around the house the past couple of days ­čśë Yup, when we’re grieving sometimes we just need to go on autopilot. Thanks for stopping by!


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