Pet Loss > Are You Struggling With Guilt and Grief After Your Pet’s Death?

Are You Struggling With Guilt and Grief After Your Pet’s Death?

You are not alone if you accidentally hurt your beloved furry friend or animal companion. Coping with guilt after your pet dies is more common than you think, even if you chose to put your furry friend down for health reasons. These tips on how to cope with guilty feelings after your pet dies will show you that you are not alone, and help you heal.

These tips are inspired by a very sad story from reader who struggled to deal with guilty feelings after his dog’s death. On a personal level, I myself have faced terrible guilt and grief after losing several pets in my life.

I know the pain of losing birds, hamsters, and even a beloved lizard. I also coped with guilty feelings after losing two dogs and four cats (not all at once, thankfully!). I didn’t know how to deal with the pain, so I read a dozen books on grieving and coping with the guilt of pet loss. The books I read weren’t as helpful as I hoped, so I interviewed several pet loss grief experts, veterinarians, and pet owners about losing a pet.

Then I gathered the most valuable tips for coping with grief and guilt after a pets’ death, and created How to Heal Your Heart After Losing Your Pet. It’s my ebook; I share a link to it at the end of this article.

These tips are inspired by a reader who shared his guilty feelings about not learning how to exercise his dog in hot weather. His dog died of heat exertion during a long hike on a sunny summer day. Saying good-bye to your beloved dog or cat is heartbreaking; it’s harder if you feel guilty about your pet’s death.

If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there,” says Pam Brown. “Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them.”

Dealing With Guilt After a Pet’s Death

Some people accidentally cause their dog or cat’s death by accidentally leaving them in harm’s way. If you accidentally hurt or even caused your pet’s death, remember is that you did not do it on purpose.

Blossom Tips Dealing With Guilt After a Pet’s Death
Dealing With Guilt After a Pet’s Death

Be gentle and compassionate with yourself, for you did not know what you were doing. You did not purposely cause your pet’s death. Dealing with guilt after a pet dies is less of a struggle when you accept that if you knew the future, you would have acted differently. If your actions led to your pet’s death, you have to keep reminding yourself that you did not deliberately harm your dog or cat. It was an accident, and you would have done things differently if you had know what would happen.

Learn about “imagined” guilt and your pet’s death

“Imagined” guilt means that you are shouldering a burden that is not yours. For example, Not recognizing that your pet Yorkie, cockapoo, or Siamese cat was sick or even dying does not mean you are a bad person or bad pet owner. This is imagined guilt. Animals can’t always communicate their physical health; we pet owners can’t see inside their bodies and brains. Nor can we predict the future.

Another type of “imagined” guilt is if you’ve accidentally caused your pet’s death by letting him out, keeping him in, or losing track of his whereabouts. If you did not deliberately set out to harm your pet, then you have nothing to feel guilty about. I know this is easier said than done – and it takes effort to forgive yourself.

If you’re dealing with imagined guilt because of your pet’s death, remember that sometimes illness or disease overcomes our dogs, cats, and other beloved pets…and there’s nothing we can do. This loss of control is a very painful — but real — part of life.

I recently wrote How to Forgive Yourself for Not Protecting Your Dog, to help readers with guilt about pet loss. Please take a moment to read it — it’s the comments on this article that inspired me to write it.

Remember that it’s normal to feel guilty when your pet dies

Whether your guilt is real or imagined, know that it is a normal grief reaction. Even the most “innocent” pet owners feel guilt over a pet’s death. For instance, I now cringe when I recall how angry I was at my beloved cat, Zoey, for scratching the basement door (I didn’t realize the door to her litter box was shut tight, and she couldn’t get in). That was over 12 years ago, and I still feel guilty! Coping with guilt after pet los takes a long time – unless you know how to love and forgive yourself (and perhaps even live like you’re forgiven and free!).

grief guilt pet dies

Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet is the number one bestselling book on pet loss and grief on Amazon. I recommend it for everyone struggling with guilt, shame and grief after their pet dies.

I love this book because it offers both heartwarming stories and practical guidance on grieving the loss of a pet. It’ll help you deal with guilt when you caused your pet’s death.

Identify “real” guilt about your pet’s death

Real guilt may spring from your feelings that you neglected your dog or cat’s annual vaccinations, daily food intake, exercise habits, and “quality time” with you. If you’re struggling with real guilt, remember that you had reasons for doing what you did. The stress of money, work, kids, marriage, and daily life may have taken precedence over how you treated your pet. Maybe you didn’t make the best choices.

Healing after your pet’s death involves accepting that you wish you would’ve done things differently — and talking this through with your family, friends, or loved ones.

Remember what you did right – because you did so much right

Your pet or beloved furry friend loved you beyond all reason – so you must have done something right. How did you love and take care of your pet? What was your friendship like overall? I bet you and your pet loved each other beyond reason (otherwise you wouldn’t feel guilty about your pet’s death).

How Do You Cope With the Death of a Pet You Love

If you’ve been struggling to deal with guilt, read How to Heal Your Heart After Losing a Pet: 75 Ways to Cope With Grief and Guilt When Your Dog or Cat Dies. It’s an ebook I wrote to help people grieve and heal.

Learn how to balance your guilt with reality. You really loved your pet, and you feel terrible about your pet’s death. You took good care of your dog or cat in many important, kind, compassionate, real ways.

Do not let your pet’s death define his or her life, or the relationship you had. If you feel guilty for abandoning your pet, read 5 Ways to Deal With Guilt and Grief After Rehoming Your Dog.

When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing by Alan D. Wolfelt is a guide for pet owners who are struggling with grief when their pet dies. This book will help you understand why your feelings are so overwhelming, and help you cope with the guilt you feel about your pet’s death. The topics discussed include practical suggestions for grieving, ideas for remembering and memorializing one’s pet, understanding the many emotions experienced after the death of a pet, understanding why grief for pets is unique, pet funerals and burial or cremation, celebrating and remembering the life of one’s pet, and coping with feelings about euthanasia (including guilt about putting an animal to sleep).

Dealing with guilt after pet loss isn’t just about grieving. Saying goodbye means you cherish the best parts of your relationship with your pet dog or cat, knowing you’ll always carry your pet’s life in your heart.

Do you feel like you caused your pet’s death? I encourage you to share your experience below. Talking and writing about your feelings of guilt and grief can be healing. You won’t be judged or condemned here.

If you’re looking for tangible expressions or symbols of forgiving guilt and grieving pet loss, read 8 Pet Sympathy Gifts to Ease the Pain of a Dog or Cat’s Death.


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168 thoughts on “Are You Struggling With Guilt and Grief After Your Pet’s Death?”

  1. A friend of mine found a kitten that he claimed a mother had abandoned. I came and picked her up, she was so tiny. I named her Leona. She was my little baby. I feel as though her passing is my fault because I didn’t give her the proper care a kitten that young needed. I would give her food and she would eat some (or attempt to because she couldn’t lap yet). I had a dropper I’d feed her out of sometimes but she should have had a bottle with a nipple. Over the course of two weeks of not eating properly, I found her under my dresser one day limp and struggling. She was dehydrated. Her eyes were open but she wasn’t meowing. I put water in her mouth and she started meowing. I called a vet, explained the symptoms and they told me to come in. That was useless. They immediately started talking money. They said her blood sugar was low, they did nothing to stabilize it. I didn’t have the $1,000 to start treatment. I have so many regrets. As I researched what possibly happened to her, I realize I could have made more of an attempt to save her at home. I panicked and rushed to the vet. I also regret telling them I couldn’t afford it, I should have just told them to SAVE HER NO MATTER WHAT!! I brought her in with her eyes open and meowing. They gave her back to me dead. I’m not sure if they euthanized her without my permission. I wanted her back the same way I gave her. I understand she may have been in pain, but I wanted to try and save her. I just hope they did the right thing. I miss my precious Leona so much. I have her sister, Leonce, who is my connection to her in a way. She is not a replacement, simply a reminder and another joy to have around. I’ve cried everyday since Leona’s passing and I talk to her spirit when I’m in my car alone. I apologize, beg for forgiveness and ask if she will come visit me somehow. She was such a sweet kitten. I miss coming into my room and her being cooled up on the white rug, a little ball of orange. She loved to snuggle up to me while I slept too.

  2. It has been almost a year since my African Grey Chula died. I feel responsible and am having a terrible time with the guilt and grief. My life has changed forever and I struggle with depression and constant crying.
    He died in surgery to repair his broken wing that was a result of me throwing him to the floor when he bit me. I made the mistake of going to pick him up to put him to bed after I turned off the lights and I probably scared him but he bit me hard. I threw him down to get him off me, and the part that haunts me is I was momentarily angered when he bit me so I tossed him harder than I should have. I cannot ever forgive myself and struggle daily.
    I loved him so much and I know he loved me, I was his ‘person’ and I can’t help but think I failed him in every way, because I was supposed to protect him and I hurt him. He died on the operating table to fix his wing. I feel like such a terrible person and the guilt is killing me. I cry all the time. I’ve gone to counseling and the local Pet Loss grief group but it only helps a little.

  3. My 9 years healthy chow mix died last week and I feel so guilty about it. I feel that I groomed her 5 months back. groomer shaved her and then her skin infection started she had eye infection too. Is it because shaving? where did I go wrong? She was not eating anything almost for 2 weeks. We explained it to vet but he did say that when infection will go she start eating. I feel terribly sad this was our first dog and I feel that I couldn’t take good care of her.