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  • Writer's picturePhilip Lewis, MA, AMFT

Managing Misperceptions About Mourning the Death of a Pet

Updated: Jan 5

As an animal lover, and also a psychotherapist practicing in West Hollywood & the Beverly Hills area, I understand the unique challenges faced by pet owners grieving the loss of a beloved companion.


Grieving any death is a profound, deeply personal and subjective process. The intensity of grief can vary greatly from person to person, and is influenced by many factors beyond just the nature of what was lost, such as the depth of emotional connection a person has to what was lost, and the unique significance the person attached to that bond. Hence, in a perfect world no one's loss would be judged as more compelling or valid than another's.


Unfortunately, even well-meaning individuals still make dismissive remarks that seem to underestimate or minimize the depth of a person’s pain simply because they are grieving the loss of an animal.


On the resources page of this website I list a few of the valuable resources available for pet parents in mourning. Below are specific strategies for managing grief when faced with another’s dismissive remarks that devalue your actual experience:


Speak up to the extent you can. Calmly saying you feel hurt by an insensitive remark allows you to promptly process potentially powerful feelings in the moment, so they don’t fester and snowball into intensely painful emotions later.


Gently educate and advocate. Sharing your feelings openly also helps those around you better understand the depth of your grief. Sometimes people simply need to be made aware when they are inadvertently causing you pain.


Walk away if you don’t know what to say. Don’t feel pressured to respond when someone tries to devalue the authenticity, validity, or intensity of your grief. It’s not rude to just walk away and say nothing.


Spend time around people who really get it. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family who truly understand the profound love and depth of bond you shared your furry-best-friend. Connecting with people who recognize the magnitude of your grief can bring tremendous comfort and validation despite what others may say.


Seek professional support. If the dismissive attitudes are taking too much of a toll on your mental and emotional well-being, consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor who specializes in pet-loss grief. They can provide you a non-judgmental space to express complex feelings, and offer guidance on how best to manage grief while coping with unreasonable and judgmental attitudes of others.


As a psychotherapist practicing in West Hollywood and the Beverly Hills area, I understand that confronting dismissive attitudes while also grieving the loss of a beloved family pet can be incredibly painful and challenging. However, it's essential to remember that your grief is valid and deserving of respect, whether the loss is man or manimal.


By recognizing the depth of your emotions, seeking supportive individuals, educating and advocating, joining pet loss support groups, creating memorials, encouraging empathy, and seeking professional help when needed, you can navigate the dismissive attitudes with resilience and dignity.


sad man holding older dog
The Original Puppy Love!


© Philip Lewis

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