Dealing with anticipatory pet grief.

Julia Dicconson
Content Manager
July 27, 2023

Grief affects all of us, and despite what some people may try to lead us to believe, any pet owner knows how real pet grief is. The unfortunate reality of being a responsible and loving pet owner is the grief of saying goodbye to a cherished member of the family .

Anticipatory pet grief is the experience of mourning the impending loss of a beloved animal companion, knowing that you will soon be saying goodbye. Coping with such feelings can be challenging, but it is essential to understand and navigate this process in a healthy manner. 

In this article, we will explore various strategies and coping mechanisms to help pet owners deal with anticipatory grief, while providing support and comfort to their furry friends.

Understanding anticipatory pet grief.

Anticipatory grief is a common reaction among pet owners who know that their pets have a limited time left due to age, terminal illnesses, or other health issues. This type of grief is something many of us will have experienced in our lives, however we might not have realised there was a name to the feeling.

Anticipatory grief mimics conventional grief in many ways - feelings of anxiety, anger, denial, dread, sadness, isolation and guilt. The key difference is feeling all of this before your beloved pet has passed away, where you have been made aware of the looming death. 

Strategies for coping with anticipatory grief.

Normalising and managing emotions.

It is important to understand that feeling grief before a pet's passing is entirely normal and valid. Pets bring joy and companionship into our lives, and the love we share with them creates a deep emotional bond. When their time with us is limited, it is natural to experience a range of emotions. 

Accepting that these feelings are an entirely normal reaction to devastating news helps pet owners come to terms with their emotions and enables them to process their grief in a healthy manner.

To help manage the anticipatory grief, don’t make any drastic changes to your routine with your pet, or try to force or create treasured memories before the time comes. This can lead to unnecessary stress, so it can be better to keep spending quality time with your pet, and depending on their health, stick to their standard daily routine, such as walks and playtime.

Prioritising self care.

Taking care of your pet during their final days can be physically and emotionally draining. It is vital to prioritise self-care during this time. Ensure you are getting enough rest, maintaining a balanced diet, and seeking emotional support when needed. Caring for yourself allows you to better care for your pet.

Seeking support.

During this difficult time, seeking support from friends, family, or support groups can make a significant difference. Talking about your emotions and memories of your pet with people who understand and empathise can provide much-needed comfort. Sharing stories and experiences can create a sense of community and make the journey through anticipatory pet grief more manageable.

It’s important to focus on reaching out to other pet owners or people who have an understanding of pet grief; unfortunately not everyone understands or recognises how losing a pet can have such an impact on us.

Here are some grief support services that may be beneficial:

The role of euthanasia in anticipatory grief.

It may have been the conversation with your veterinarian that prompted the feelings of anticipatory grief - knowing that you’ll soon need to make the difficult decision of euthanasia.

In an ideal world, our pets would peacefully pass away in their sleep, however, that is rarely the case, which is why euthanasia is the most humane choice for pets struggling with illness or pain during the last weeks of their life.

Communicating with your veterinarian.

Having a chat to your veterinarian may help ease any negative emotions, as they can help show you why euthanasia may be the best option for your pet. It’s completely normal to feel guilty or like you’re playing God making this decision for your beloved furry friend, but they know you always have their best interest at heart.

Discuss your pet's condition, treatment options, and prognosis with your vet. Understanding the reality of the situation can help you prepare emotionally and make informed decisions regarding your pet's care.

Read: How will I know it’s time to euthanise my pet?

Final thoughts on anticipatory grief.

Dealing with anticipatory pet grief is undoubtedly one of the most challenging experiences a pet owner can face. The deep bond we share with our furry friends makes their loss profoundly impactful. Remember that grieving is a natural process, and there is no right or wrong way to go through it. Honour the memories of your pet and cherish the time you had together. With time and support, the pain will become more manageable, and the memories will bring smiles instead of tears.

Don’t wait until the very end. It’s important to consider your pet’s end-of-life journey early, so that you, your family and your pet are all supported through the process.

When the time comes, we’re here for you. Goodbye Good Boy provides a range of end-of-life services to make the difficult process of saying goodbye a little easier. 

We offer quality of life assessments from qualified vets, specialist grief counselling, at home euthanasia from dedicated end of life veterinarians, as well as cremation services and memorial options to help remember your pet for their unique character.

We are with you at every step of the journey.

To find out more, you can call our team of passionate pet lovers on 1800 953 619.