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Coping with Pet Loss During the Holidays

Coping with Pet Loss During the Holidays

               Losing a pet any time of year is difficult but the death of a pet can be particularly painful around the holidays.  It can seem impossible to enjoy the festive atmosphere when your beloved pet is no longer with you.  Taking time to remember your pet, practicing self care, and allowing time to grieve can be helpful ways to move through loss.

  • First and foremost, give yourself time to grieve. Your pet was a part of your family and we often feel the loss of a pet even more keenly than we may the loss of a human. We are close to our pets and the loss of a pet causes grief and pain.  Feeling tired, sad, or maybe even angry that a pet has died are all normal feelings. Give yourself permission to feel that loss and remember it is OK to cry.
  • Don’t feel obligated to participate in holiday festivities if you are not feeling up to it. Saying “no” to parties and outings is OK.  However, it is also important not to isolate yourself. Make sure you have close family or friends or even a trusted therapist or online chat group in whom you can confide and share stories about your pet without judgement.
  • It is also OK to feel joy.  Feeling happy about holiday celebrations or smiling at a memory of your pet are also normal.  Laughing and being happy does not diminish what your pet meant to you and you should not feel guilty for enjoying yourself and remembering your pet with happy thoughts.
  • Practice self-care.  Taking care of yourself by eating well, staying hydrated and getting rest are all important.  Do things that bring you some happiness and allow you to take a break from grieving—alone or with a trusted person in your life--like watching a funny movie, taking a walk, journalling or whatever brings you peace.
  • Consider doing something special to remember your pet during the holidays. Consider lighting a candle or luminary, purchasing a special ornament or decoration, or making a donation to a shelter or other animal-oriented organization in memory of your pet. Taking time to remember a special pet who is no longer with you can bring new meaning and tradition to your holiday. The first holiday after the loss of a pet is often the most difficult.  It is only one day.  There will be other holidays, other times to celebrate and remember your pet with fondness.

The loss of a pet can be a very traumatic experience. Remember, it’s OK to grieve but it’s also OK to feel some happiness in the midst of loss. Surround yourself with those who support you, take care of yourself and consider creating new or special traditions to remember your pet during the holidays.

This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York, and the surrounding communities.

NOTE: If you or someone you know is experiencing overwhelming thoughts of depression or self-harm, PLEASE call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 or online at for 24/7 support. Lap of love also offers resources for pet loss support at the link below.