Critter Corner: Coping with the Death of a Pet

Dear Angel,

My mother’s beloved lap cat just passed away at the age of 17 and my mom is inconsolable. I’ve never lost a pet, so I don’t quite understand how she is feeling. How would you suggest she deal with the passing of a pet that was so dear to her? Thanks for any suggestions you may have!

Sheila Misserpett

Dear Sheila,

I am so sorry to hear about your mother’s cat.

Your letter comes at a tough time for me and the other pets at the Farr Law Firm, as well. I am sad to say that our bunny friend, Commander Bun Bun (aka Pancake) is no longer with us. Commander Bun Bun lived at the office for more than six years, and answered lots of technology and other questions on Critter Corner. Everyone loved to pet her, and she provided so much love and comfort to our clients and staff. She will surely be missed! R.I.P. Commander Bun Bun!
Coping with the loss of a pet can be particularly hard for seniors. Those who live alone may feel a loss of purpose and a feeling of emptiness. A pet’s death may also trigger painful memories of other losses and remind seniors and caregivers of their own mortality.

Angel with Commander Bun Bun

When a person you love dies, it’s natural to feel sorrow, express grief, and expect friends and family to provide understanding and comfort. Unfortunately, you don’t always get that understanding when a pet dies. Some people still don’t understand how central animals can be in people’s lives, and that we pets are often just like children to our caretakers. Some may not get why you’re grieving over “just a pet.”

The grief process for pets is as individual as the person, lasting days for one person, years for another. Some people actually experience more grief over the loss of a beloved pet and they do over the grief of a beloved human. The process typically begins with denial, which offers protection until individuals can realize their loss. Some people feel anger and question why the loss occurred. They may also feel guilt about what they did or did not do; and they may even feel that it is inappropriate for them to be so upset.

After these feelings subside, pet owners may experience true sadness or grief. Acceptance occurs when they accept the reality of their loss and remember their animal companion with decreasing sadness.

It’s critical that senior pet owners, such as your mother, take immediate steps to cope with their loss and regain a sense of purpose. Your mother should do her best to interact with friends and family, call a pet-loss support hotline, if needed, and even volunteer at a local humane society, when she is ready.

A website that I find to be helpful is the Rainbow Bridge Poem website , a place where you can actually create an online memorial, if desired. Mr. Farr also has a “Loss of a Loved One” page on the law firm’s website.  Although the resources there are intended primarily for humans, they apply equally for pets.

Sending love and comfort and gentle purrs to your mother during this difficult time,


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.


  1. Susan Chipman says

    Robert Sternberg, one of our more famous psychologists, addressed this issue in one of his many papers. He concluded that intensity of grief is usually determined by the amount of interaction with the person or pet. Pets tend to rank very high on that scale.

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