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The Ralph Site - pet loss support

Welcome to The Ralph Site Blog

Hello, and welcome to The Ralph Site Blog.

We celebrate the unique place that pets have in our lives through regular features and practical advice on pet bereavement and other animal-related matters.

Pet loss support

The Ralph Site is a non-profit online pet loss support resource which provides support to pet carers coping with the loss of a beloved companion. There are a website and an active Facebook community with a public page and a private group.

Pet carers’ community

The Ralph Site aims to provide a non-judgmental and supportive place for those pet carers who have lost a much-loved member of the family. We know all too well the pain and heartbreak that accompanies the passing of your pet. And whilst these pets can never be replaced, we may find room to enrich our lives further with others when the time is right.

At The Ralph Site, we understand the special bond between you and your pets.

Thank you for your support.


Ten ways to support a loved one who is grieving the loss of a pet

One of the toughest aspects of grieving for a pet is that people often feel very alone and unsupported in their loss.

Sadly, a bereaved pet carer might be given a day off work and receive a few sympathy cards before they’re expected to put their loss behind them and get back to normality. Yet, in reality, the loss of a pet can be as devastating as the loss of a human companion.
Continue reading

Coping with pet loss guilt

If only…. How to deal with pet loss guilt

Something striking when one reads the many stories of loss on The Ralph Site Facebook page, and especially within the private Facebook group, is that – although the circumstances of each loss are different – guilt seems to be one of the unifying emotions.
Pet loss guilt is particularly present and overwhelming in the early days following a bereavement. Continue reading

Grieving for a missing pet

Most people associate pet bereavement with the physical death of a beloved pet but what happens when you’re grieving for a pet that has escaped from your home, runaway or even been stolen?

A traumatic loss

When a pet goes missing, it’s so horribly unexpected that it can take time to process the circumstances and your feelings.

Bereavement experts agree that the grief that follows is very similar to that experienced when a pet dies suddenly and traumatically.

As well as the feelings of missing your pet and the life you share with each other, it’s likely that your thoughts may be running in a terrible cycle of questions, “How did this happen?”, “Are they scared?”, “Are they suffering?”, “Are they safe?”, “Has someone found them?”, “Who’s fault is this?”, “What if I’d done X, Y or Z instead?”, “Where are they now?”.

You may feel angry, helpless, frustrated and guilty. If your pet went missing because of someone else’s actions – however innocent those actions may have been – the chances are that you feel angry with that person and may even blame them for your loss.

This can have devastating consequences if that person is part of your immediate support network – a partner, parent or friend – who you would normally turn to at this time of grieving. You may find that you can’t even look at them without thinking of your lost pet.

Or what if your child accidentally forgot to shut the garden gate or close the front door? You may find yourself torn between wanting to minimise their suffering and being angry about their role in this loss, which can be challenging to manage.

How long do we wait?

There’s one feeling, in particular, that can make grieving for a missing pet even more heart wrenching, and that feeling is hope – hope that your pet is alive and well; hope that they’ll come home; hope that your family will be complete again one day.

Most of us have heard stories of cats that have disappeared, only to return months later without a care in the world. There’s always the hope that your pet could return one day too.

As someone once described it, “It’s like having an open wound that’s not allowed to heal” because, of course, all the time there’s hope, it means that the loss might only be temporary. If you have hope, you may feel that it’s not OK to grieve. After all, wouldn’t grieving be like giving up?

But many people are faced with the question of, “How long do we wait for our pet to return?” Maybe what they’re really asking is, “When are we allowed to grieve?”

There is no right or wrong answer. As we’ve said before, grief doesn’t have a timeline.

Searching for a missing pet

Most people find it helps them to be as proactive as possible about searching for their pet, especially in the days immediately after they go missing. If you haven’t already, you could:

  • Initiate a search of the local area
  • Let your neighbours know that your pet is missing
  • If it’s your cat who’s gone missing, many people recommend putting the litter tray outside so that the scent carries
  • Check with local vets and animal shelters
  • Create some ‘Lost pet’ posters to put up on lampposts and community noticeboards
  • Post on Facebook – many areas now have local community groups where you can post about missing pets

These actions can help to give you back a feeling of control at a time when you may feel impotent in the face of your loss

Coping with your loss and finding closure

You may feel like it’s impossible to reconcile your grief with the glimmer of hope we talked about above. It’s this lack of closure that is particularly cruel.

Some people cope by telling themselves that their pet is alive, well and loved but just somewhere else. Others decide to view their pet as having died in order to be able to say goodbye. Eventually, most people are able to say that if their pet returns, it will be the greatest gift but, until then, they have to live as if the animal has gone forever.

Again, there is no right or wrong.

There are some steps you can take to help you cope with your loss, whatever stage you are at in the grieving process:

  • Remember that you – or whoever was involved – did not plan for this to happen. No-one woke up one morning and said, “I am going to make sure my pet escapes today”. Mistakes happen – they are part of the human condition.
  • Blame is not productive – it creates barriers, loneliness and silence at a time when you need support.
  • Ask yourself whether your pet would blame you or want you to be unhappy? The wonderful thing about animals is that they live in the moment, they give unconditional love and they don’t dwell in the past. Your pet would not want you to be sad.
  • Grief is experienced one moment at a time – some moments are good, some are bad but all are OK.
  • If you have other pets, you might find it helpful to plan against this kind of loss happening again. For example, you might want to ensure that your pets are microchipped or that the microchip has your latest contact details.
  • Prioritise your self-care, whether that means eating well, going for regular walks, meeting up with a friend or soaking in the bath.
  • Let yourself grieve – whether or not your pet finds his/her way home one day, doesn’t diminish the loss you’re feeling right now. Your grief is natural.

Reach out to pet bereavement support services or groups such as The Ralph Site Facebook group, where other people have lost their pets in all sorts of circumstances and will understand your feelings.

Sadly, you may never know the truth of what happened to your pet after they went missing. But you do know the truth of the life you shared together. It’s important to remember how special this was because that’s the story of your pet’s life and it deserves to be cherished.

Above all, do know that you’re not alone.

Until next time, very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

Tell us in Ten with Christine Hallworth

In the last of our series of mini-interviews with friends of The Ralph Site we heard from Christine Hallworth, who has given us some wise words of advice for anyone experiencing the loss of a much-loved companion.

1. Do you currently share your home with any pets? If so, please tell us about them.

I have three beautiful cats – Alfie, Phoebe and George. Alfie and Phoebe are sixteen-month-old brother and sister, who we adopted from a rescue centre at the end of April after losing my precious Ollie to kidney disease in February this year. They had been born at the rescue centre in June 2016 and were homed together when they were eight weeks old. Sadly for them, they had been returned to the centre a few days before we saw them because of a relationship breakdown, but we fell in love with them both immediately!

A few days later, after a home check, they came to live with us. After hiding under the bed for the first hour they soon ventured out to eat and have very much made themselves at home ever since. We adopted George from the same centre in August this year – he is a cute, mischievous little black and white longhaired boy who loves his ‘big brother’ Alfie and is kept in line by his ‘big sister’ Phoebe! Together they have made our house a home again, after the devastating loss of Ollie who had been in our lives for eleven and a half years.

2. What was the name of your first pet?


3. Why did you choose the name?

He was named Donny after my favourite singer at the time, Donny Osmond!

4. Cats, dogs, or another species? Can you choose?! And why?

Despite being brought up in a mainly dog-loving family, I have always loved cats for their beauty, independence and unique personalities.

5. What is your favourite memory of an animal who has shared your life?

My favourite memories will always be of spending time with Ollie, as the very grateful recipient of his ‘head bumps and nose kisses’ that we shared most days. I will cherish those memories, and love and miss Ollie until the day I die.

6. Which three words would you choose to describe him?

Although three words are not enough to describe Ollie, I would choose loyal, loving and unforgettable.

7. What is your favourite fictional animal and why?

Definitely Winnie the Pooh, because he is cute and cuddly!

8. If you could be any animal, which one would you choose and why?

If I could be any animal I would be a cat – they are independent but love their comfort (as I do!) and they are loyal when they find someone who truly loves them.

9. What advice would you give to someone who is grieving for a much-loved pet?

Allow yourself to grieve in the way which is right for you, ignore anyone who tries to tell you ‘it’s only an animal’, be kind to yourself and give yourself as much time as you need to grieve for your loved one. Try and find like-minded people who really understand and will help you to cope.

10. When and how did you come across The Ralph Site? What do you think is the most important role of The Ralph Site community?

My husband, desperate to find a way to help me with my overwhelming grief as a result of losing Ollie, told me about The Ralph Site. Everyone else thought I was over it after a couple of weeks, but he could see that I was constantly in tears when we were at home and I wasn’t sleeping. Jim had phoned our vets for some advice and was told about The Ralph Site.

The most important thing was finding out that I’m not alone in my overwhelming grief; after having felt so alone, to be able to read all these comments from people who felt the same way I do was a revelation. Suddenly I could ‘talk’ to people who really understood my feelings of guilt, sorrow and sadness.

I now know it’s OK to say that I still cry every day for Ollie (including whilst I’m writing this), and probably always will. There is no time limit on grief, and losing Ollie has been as bad, if not worse, as losing my parents and best friend.

The Ralph Site community is always there for anyone to express their feelings and make them feel that they are understood – it has probably saved me from a lot more heartbreak in my own life.

This is the last in our series of mini-interviews with members of The Ralph Site community for the time being. We hope that you have enjoyed hearing from some of the members and feel a little closer to one another.

Until next time, very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support