Paw prints in sand

A Guide to Pet Loss & Handling Grief

When it comes to losing a pet, there is no right or wrong way for someone to grieve. All of us at Grand Valley Animal Hospital hope this guide will help you find closure and peace after the loss of your much-loved family member.


When the time comes in a pet parent’s life to consider laying one of their closest companions to rest, the decision is not easy and the time may never seem right. If it is recommended by your veterinary team due to illness or age, or you notice changes to the quality of your pet’s daily life, such as constant pain, lacking response to affection, and being generally uninterested in life, it may be time to consider relieving your pet of their suffering. You may find the JOURNEYS Quality of Life Scale to be a helpful resource when considering the best course for you and your pet.


Be honest and unselfish when it comes to evaluating your pet’s health and consult with your veterinary team about their recommendations and next steps to help you during this difficult time.

Man hugging dog.

If you have made the decision to put your beloved friend to rest, you will need to decide if you should stay with them during this final act of love. Many feel a sense of closure and relief in being able to provide comfort and see their pet’s pain end as they peacefully pass away. In some cases, it may be harder to accept that your pet is gone without being present and saying goodbye during their final moments.


Whichever option you decide is best, it is most important to consider what will bring both you and your pet the greatest sense of peace.


A pet is one of the only companions that will love you unconditionally, and the need to memorialize them after passing is natural. Whether you are considering burial or cremation, planning the final resting place for your best friend can provide closure and bring you peace.

Home Burial

Some owners choose home burial, which can be more economical and personalized. However, make sure to consider your specific situation before choosing this option, as some city ordinances prohibit pet burials, and this may not be the best choice for renters or frequent movers.


Cremation is one of the most economical options and allows for more choices in how to handle your pet’s remains, including burial, scattering the ashes in a favorite location, or keeping them with you in a decorative and personalized urn or remembrance box.

Pet Cemetery

Another option for burial is a plot at a pet cemetery. Costs for this service vary, but some pet owners find this option to have more permanence and be the most serene, since care of the gravesite is usually given.


There are also many wonderful and thoughtful ways that can help you cherish the memories of your pet after their memorial service, including memory boxes with their favorite toys, photos of them, and other items that will keep your pet close to your heart, such as photo albums, memorial paw prints, personalized jewelry, garden memorial stones, and charitable contributions in their honor.

If you need assistance in finding the perfect way to memorialize your pet, we have a variety of options we can recommend. Speak with our staff at 701.757.3500 or during your appointment for more information.


Woman sitting in windowsill.

After the loss of your pet, it is normal to experience all of the same emotions as losing a human loved one, such as guilt, denial, anger, and depression. Different people deal with grief in different ways, so what you are feeling and how you are grieving may not be the same way others, even your spouse or children, handle the loss of your pet. The most important thing to realize is that you should not internalize your feelings.


Communicating openly with your support network and others in your life about your loss will help you to work through your feelings in a positive manner, and you may find their sympathy comforting and healing during this fragile time. There is no reason to be ashamed of feeling extreme grief over the loss of a pet, and definitely don’t suffer in silence and alone; other people, especially pet owners, will realize what a devastating loss this is in your life and be willing to offer the support you need.


No matter how long you spent with your beloved friend, they were a constant part of your life, as well as a comfort and source of unconditional love. In some cases, seeking professional help is necessary, especially if you feel powerless or cannot cope with your grief. There are some great resources available to help you during these trying times; here are some that we recommend.

The process of losing a beloved pet is unique for everyone, but one thing that is certain is that you don’t have to go through it alone; contact us today for additional resources or to ask questions at 701.757.3500.

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