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.
If you’ve recently lost a beloved pet, have you noticed that you’re experiencing new physical symptoms as well the emotional turmoil associated with grief?
The physical side of bereavement can add new layers of stress to an already difficult time in your life.
Before we experience grief for the first time, most of us think of it as a single emotion but, as you know from personal experience, grief is actually much more nuanced, affecting your mind and your body.
Common physical symptoms of grief
Losing someone you love can cause huge chemical shifts within your body, such as higher-than-usual amounts of adrenaline in your system. Naturally, this affects how you feel physically.
If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms since your pet died or went missing, then please be reassured that they are probably a direct response to your grief:
You may find that you have little or no appetite at the moment. It’s also common for bereaved people to experience temporary digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhoea, stomach pain, feeling nauseated or a horrible empty feeling in the stomach.
Be gentle with yourself. Try to eat small amounts of food throughout the day, if you feel up to it, and do what you can to stay hydrated, even if it means setting a reminder on your phone to drink a glass of water.
Are you finding it impossible to sleep? Or is sleeping the only thing you want to do right now? Perhaps your sleep cycles are back to front or you sleep in small bursts throughout the day?
Any kind of disruption to your usual sleep patterns will affect how you feel. Research would suggest that almost everyone who suffers from bereavement experiences some kind of sleep disruption. This can increase in people showing signs of complicated grief.
Of course, too much or too little sleep can have an impact of all areas of your life, affecting your concentration, coordination, energy levels and much more.
It is packed full of suggestions about how to make your sleeping environment more conducive to rest, adopting a bedtime routine, relaxation techniques and things to avoid.
Grief is exhausting. Whether it’s because you’re eating less and struggling to sleep or because your mind is in overdrive, it’s completely understandable that you feel tired and low on energy. You may even find that your muscles feel weak.
Again, give yourself time and permission to take life at a slower pace. Rest when you need to rest.
Some people find it helpful to set small targets for what they want to achieve in the day, even if it’s a five-minute walk in the fresh air. As counter-intuitive as it seems when you’re utterly exhausted, even gentle exercise can help to boost your energy levels.
A lot of bereaved people find that they experience weight gain or weight loss in the weeks and months after losing a loved one.
If you find you’re putting weight on, it could be because you’re eating convenience food and takeaways more (because it’s too exhausting to think about cooking) or because you’re exercising less. This can especially affect bereaved dog carers who no longer have their canine companion to encourage them to take daily walks or those who have lost a beloved horse.
On the flipside, if you’re losing weight, it may be because your appetite is non-existent or you just don’t have the energy to think about food.
Disruptions to your sleep can also affect your metabolism and lead to weight fluctuations.
As many people find pet loss hard to talk about, and experience it as a disenfranchised grief, it’s not uncommon to feel socially isolated, which can impact on your eating and exercise habits.
If you have a loved one who will encourage you to eat healthily or come out for a walk with you, do try to reach out to them.
Sadly, the stress of grief can lower your body’s immune system, making you more vulnerable to illnesses such as colds, the flu and other viruses.
If you already had a chronic health condition before your pet died, your symptoms may temporarily worsen. This is why it’s important to look after yourself as much as possible.
Remember, your pet wouldn’t want to see you suffer.
All of that extra adrenaline in your body can cause feelings of anxiety and nervousness, such as heart palpitations, a tingling or numb sensation in your extremities, sweaty hands, shallow breathing and more.
Essentially, your body believes it is in a ‘fight or flight’ situation. It wants to protect you from something that might hurt you, not realising that you’re already hurting.
You may find some helpful suggestions about coping with these symptoms in our previous article about anxiety after pet loss.
Feeling hot or cold
It may seem strange but many people find that their body temperature fluctuates wildly after a bereavement. One minute you might feel chilled to the bone and then the next, you’re in the throes of night sweat.
Again, these physical symptoms are typically caused by a surge of adrenaline.
Aches and pains
Sadly, the stress and emotions of grief can cause genuine feelings of physical pain and discomfort, such as migraines, a stiff neck, backache, stomach ache, chest pains, joint pain or muscular aches.
Most people find that their physical aches and pains lessen over time. If you are experiencing physical pain, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP about pain relief or other treatment options.
Are you struggling to focus on simple tasks? Are you scared to drive because you can’t concentrate and you’re slow to react?
Again, this is a common physical symptom of grief.
Many factors can affect your concentration levels. Are you sleeping? Are you eating properly? Are you constantly thinking about your pet or reliving the last time you saw them?
Even big chemical shifts in your body can affect your concentration. During a traumatic time, for example, when your brain and body are in pure survival mode, your mind doesn’t process images and memories in the same way as it does normally.
This can impact how you perceive what’s happening around you when you’re grieving and give you a sense of looking at life through a window or on a delay.
Coping with your physical symptoms of pet loss grief
As you can see, grief is as physical as it is emotional. If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, please do know that it’s a normal response to loss (although we understand this doesn’t make your experience any easier).
It’s important that you take care of yourself.
Rest when you can. Eat well (but little and often, if necessary). Exercise when you have the energy.
And if you want to talk about your loss, support is available.
The Ralph Site Facebook group offers a community of bereaved pet carers who offer kindness and compassion and who understand what you’re going through.
Journaling is often used as a method for practicing mindfulness, which many experts recommend as a tool to help people who are grieving.
Even if you haven’t kept a journal before, it might be something to explore. It truly is a way to take small but meaningful steps through your grief.
What is journaling?
Journaling is quite simply the act of expressing your thoughts and feelings in writing. Unlike a diary, a journal won’t necessarily tie in to the chronological events happening in your life.
Although you can type a journal, many feel that handwriting your thoughts enables you to connect more consciously to what you’re writing.
Some people like to approach journaling without a topic in mind.
In the iconic book The Artist’s Way, the author Julia Cameron recommends a practice of writing “morning pages” at the start of every day, i.e. three pages of long-hand writing that are strictly a stream of consciousness.
The idea is that you write whatever comes into your mind without a filter.
Morning pages aren’t intended to be art, they aren’t written for anyone else to read. They’re more like a brain drain where you pour out your innermost thoughts – the good, bad and mundane – on to paper to help make sense of them.
Ad hoc journaling
Other people prefer to approach journaling on a more ad hoc basis, writing whenever the mood takes them, rather than every day.
If you find the blank pages of your journal daunting, journal prompts can give you a starting point to see where your thoughts take you.
50 grief journal prompts
To help you, we’ve put together a list of 50 journal prompts all focusing on your grief for your beloved pet. You don’t need to do them in order. Have a scan through and see which prompt resonates the most with your emotions today.
Today I am missing…
I am feeling …
To allow these feelings to transform into something else, I am willing to …
The hardest part of the day is …
My favourite memory …
A smell that reminds me of you …
10 words that describe you …
What I wish I could tell you …
How losing you changed me …
When I think about you, I …
Our favourite thing to do together …
I need more …
I would prefer less …
Today, I feel …
If you were here now …
What stage of grief do you feel you’re at?
When I need you most, I can call on …
What helps me remember you …
If you could see me now …
Every time I see _________ I think of you
I choose to remember you by …
How you left us…
Write your loved one’s story …
Things I’ve learnt about myself since you passed away …
What I find the most difficult to cope with …
Are you able to freely talk about your loved one?
I find it difficult to _________ since you’ve been gone
A quote that makes me think of you …
The signs I see that make me think of you …
The kind things people say …
Life without you is …
Things I do to honour you …
I am ready to feel …
A simple activity that could help make today easier …
My support system includes …
I feel most connected to you when …
I find it most helpful when …
You had a way of making me feel …
A creative thing I can do to celebrate you …
If I could be like you in one way, it would be that I would …
The most important thing you taught me …
If today was a good day, why?
Today, I remembered …
Are there ways to express grief that you’ve found helpful in the past?
The feelings I am looking forward to having again
The feelings I want to leave behind
Do I feel comfortable asking for help? If not, why not?
What I love about you
Five ways I can be kinder to myself today
Why my life is better because of our time together
The benefits of journaling
While journaling isn’t for everyone, it’s definitely worth keeping an open mind about writing a grief journal.
The New York Times reported that journaling has many scientifically-proven benefits, including improving your sleep, boosting your immune system and lifting your self-confidence (all things that can take a hit when you’re grieving).
A landmark study by Dr James W Pennebaker in 1988 found that people who journaled about traumatic or disturbing experiences, such as grief, at least four times a week for six weeks experienced more positive moods and fewer illnesses than people who just wrote about every day events.
Pennebaker’s recommendation is that we each try journaling for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, four times a week. He counsels against every day because it’s important not to ruminate too much when you’re going through a challenging time with grief.
Writing when it’s difficult to talk
Pet loss grief is hard. Writing a journal can offer a sounding board for your feelings, even ones that you’re struggling to share with your support network.
Hopefully, the journal prompts above will give you some starting points if you want to write about your grief in all of its forms.
Journaling may also help you to rediscover happy memories of your pet and shift your focus eventually to what you gained from loving your pet rather than what you have lost.
How do you feel about looking at photos of your lost pet? Does it make you sad or provide you with some comfort?
After a bereavement of any kind, people tend to fall into one of two camps when it comes to wanting to look at photos or videos of their departed loved one: those who find them essential to the grieving process and those that find them far too distressing.
As with most responses to grief, there really is no right or wrong here, only what is right for you.
How photos can help in a time of grief and loss
There are many reasons to look at photos and videos of a pet who has died or gone missing as you work to process your grief.
Photos keep your pet at the heart of your family
Your pet was an important part of your immediate family and it’s likely that many of your daily habits and routines revolved around them. Being able to look at photos and videos can be a comforting way to continue giving your pet a physical presence in your home.
Organising photos of your pet can be cathartic
For some people, looking at and organising photos of a pet or loved one who has died can be a healing activity. It reminds them of happy memories and connects them to their life before their loss.
Creating this visual memorial also gives them a job to occupy their mind during the first days and weeks of grief. Some bereaved pet carers, for example, create a photobook of their pet, telling the story of their life.
Photos keep your memories alive
Often, when a pet dies (or, indeed, any loved one), we reach a point where we become terrified that we’re forgetting how that animal looked or sounded or how they behaved. Patterns on their fur or feathers, the shape of their nose or the pads of their paws – these memories can start to fade, which can be distressing.
Our brains are a bit like filing cabinets, storing memories of our loved ones in different drawers and compartments. Sometimes, a photo or video is the key we need to unlock those memories and bring them back. It’s a powerful reminder that everything still lives inside of us (we just may need a prompt!)
Photos of happier times take you beyond how your pet died
Photos can serve as a precious reminder of your pet’s unique quirks and personality traits, taking you back to what they were like before injury or illness touched them.
This can be especially powerful if you’ve been living with an elderly or terminally ill animal companion for a long time. Sometimes, it takes old photos to show us how poorly our pet had really been.
As pet carers, we often get trapped in a cycle of thoughts about how our pet died or went missing, especially if their final moments were traumatic.
But the end of your time together is just a fraction of your pet’s life story.
Photos and videos show us the bigger picture.
Photos are conversation starters
Photos and videos are conversation starters. This is important if you want to talk about your pet but can also help to encourage children and other family members to express their grief and memories.
Browsing through photos can remind you of funny stories (e.g. the day your dog ate your child’s birthday cake off the kitchen side while you were prepping the party in the lounge!) and encourage you to express a whole range of emotions.
Looking at pictures, you may remember and share things that you haven’t thought about in years.
When photos cause you pain
If you currently find looking at photos or videos of your pet too painful, please don’t beat yourself up about it. Many people feel this way.
Become a source of obsession (e.g. “I’ll forget what they looked like if I stop looking at photos every day”)
If you are feeling this way, you may decide to save the digital photos of your pet somewhere other than your phone, or to pack away physical pictures until you’re ready to see them again.
Dealing with photos on social media
Do you fall to pieces every time a picture of your pet pops up on social media?
Features like Facebook Memories can be tough for the bereaved. You log in to your newsfeed each morning only to be faced with pictures of happier times when your pet was alive and well.
If this is something you’re struggling with, you’ll be relieved to know that you can change the settings.
If you’re viewing Facebook on a desktop, click on ‘Memories’ in the left-hand column of your newsfeed. You can then change the Notifications to turn off Memories altogether. There is also an option to block certain dates or people, but this feature isn’t always effective for hiding pet memories.
The former option of not being shown any Memories is usually the best option for bereaved pet carers.
Photos take on new meaning over time
Whatever your feelings about looking at photos of your lost pet now, it’s likely that those feelings will change over time.
Most people eventually reach a point when they can look at photos and take comfort from the precious memories they captured.
In turn, this can help to shift your focus from all that you have lost to everything your pet gave you during your time together.
Losing a pet is undeniably hard. The grief can be overwhelming and people often express feelings of loneliness and being unseen as they struggle to come to terms with their bereavement.
It can be hard to know where to turn for comfort but some people find it helpful to read the words and wisdoms of others who have experienced their own losses, both animal and human, to feel a little less alone.
Knowing this, we’ve put together 60 pet loss quotes to bring you comfort or if you’re looking for something supportive to say to a friend who has recently lost a beloved pet.
General quotes about grief and pet loss
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Anatole France
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” From an Irish Headstone
“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” Hilary Stanton Zunin “Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” Vicki Harrison
“There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.” Aeschylus
“I should know enough about loss to realize that you never really stop missing someone-you just learn to live around the huge gaping hole of their absence.” Alyson Noel
“Sometimes losing a pet is more painful than losing a human because in the case of the pet, you were not pretending to love [them].” Amy Sedaris
“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” James Herriot
“Our animal friends teach us more than we could have expected and love us more than we could have hoped… that’s why we miss them more than we could have imagined.” Unknown
“They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite.” Cassandra Clare
“If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them.” Pam Brown
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” Washington Irving
“To call him a dog hardly seems to do him justice, though inasmuch as he had four legs, a tail, and barked, I admit he was, to all outward appearances. But to those who knew him well, he was a perfect gentleman.” Hermione Gingold
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” Khalil Gibran
“Although it’s difficult today to see beyond the sorrow, may looking back in memory help comfort you tomorrow.” Author Unknown
“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” Helen Keller
“Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives.” John Galsworthy
“The pain passes, but the beauty remains.” Pierre Auguste Renoir
“Grief doesn’t have a plot. It isn’t smooth. There is no beginning and middle and end.” Ann Hood
“Sorrow is how we learn to love. Your heart isn’t breaking. It hurts because it’s getting larger. The larger it gets, the more love it holds.” Rita Mae Brown
“It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.” John Grogan
“Pets’ lives are too short. Their only fault.” Agnes Sligh Turnbull
“I feel about my pets now, and all the pets I had before this, the way I feel about children — they are that important to me. When I have lost a pet I have gone into a mourning period that lasted for months.” Mary Tyler Moore
“The difference between friends and pets is that friends we allow into our company, pets we allow into our solitude.” Robert Brault
“They bring us love and happiness and comfort without end. It’s hard to face such sadness without your furry friend.” Unknown
“No matter how or when we lose our furry friends, their love lasts a lifetime.” Unknown
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Winnie the Pooh
“Gradually… and with time… letting go of the pain of our loss, bit by bit, never means letting go of our love.” Barbara Schulte
“No time on earth is long enough to share with the animals we love, or prepare our hearts to say goodbye.” Unknown
“It’s the depth of love that determines the depth of grief, not whether the loved one was human or animal.” Unknown
Comforting quotes about losing a dog
“The misery of keeping a dog is his dying so soon. But, to be sure, if he lived for fifty years and then died, what would become of me?” Sir Walter Scott
“Dogs are small rays of light caught on Earth for a short time to brighten our days.” Unknown
“Dogs leave pawprints on our hearts” Author Unknown
“Nobody can fully understand the meaning of love unless he’s owned a dog. A dog can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes.” Gene Hill
“The bond with a dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth can ever be.” Konrad Lorenz
“I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?” Sir Walter Scott
“I guess you don’t really own a dog, you rent them, and you have to be thankful that you had a long lease.” Joe Garagiola
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” Will Rogers
“Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love, they depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog, it merely expands the heart. If you have loved many dogs your heart is very big.” Erica Jong
“The worst thing about losing your dog is not having someone there to lick your tears away.” Unknown
“Having a dog will bless you with the happiest days of your life, and one of the worst days.” Unknown
Comforting quotes about losing a cat
“The loss of a cat is immeasurable. But so is the love left behind.” Unknown
“Your favourite chair is empty now, where you would lie and sleep. But the memory of our happy times is mine to always keep.” Unknown
“What greater gift than the love of a cat.” Charles Dickens
“When the cat you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.” Unknown
“Sometimes a very special cat enters our lives…their presence changes our hearts forever. And we can call ourselves blessed for having known them.” Unknown
“If you have a cat, you will most likely outlive [them]. To get a cat is to open yourself to profound joy and prospectively, to equally profound sadness.” Unknown
“One day all the cats we’ve ever loved will all come running towards us and that day will be a good day.” Unknown
“No one can truly understand the bond that we form with our cats we love until they experience the loss of one.” Unknown
“The memories and paw print of a beloved cat remains in our heart and soul forever.” Unknown
“The love of a cat is like a symphony. It is a waste of time trying to explain its depths to those who don’t cherish it.” Unknown
“No amount of time can erase the memory of a good cat, and no amount of masking tape can ever totally remove his fur from your couch.” Leo Dworken
“Someone asked me what the most difficult thing about having a cat was. I replied: ’the goodbye’.” Unknown
Pet loss quotes for a special horse
“Once touched by the spirit of a horse, your soul remains forever enlightened.” Unknown
“Horses lend us the wings we lack.” Anonymous
“Always remember that once a horse has touched your soul, they will always be with you.” Unknown
“While time will fade these hoofprints, the ones left on your heart will never disappear.” Unknown
“The love of a horse knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” Unknown
“The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom.” Sharon Ralls Lemon
We hope these quotes provide you some comfort. Please do take a look around the other articles on our blog for more pet loss grief support.
Have you come to this site because you’re grieving what others might refer to as an ‘unusual’ or ‘exotic’ pet such as a snake, lizard, tortoise or tarantula as just a few examples?
You might feel that no-one understands your pain and the loss you have experienced.
Animals come in all shapes and sizes, just like the humans who care for them. Regardless of their species, when they die, any animal can leave a huge hole and a tremendous amount of grief.
We want you to know that we’re here for you. The pet loss advice throughout the site applies to any animal and their humans.
We are truly sorry for your loss.
Caring for an ‘unconventional’ pet
When researching this blog, we read through forums for people who are passionate about caring for reptiles, fish, spiders and many other animals. One of the most striking things was that there were so many posts from people saying, “I’m scared you’re going to laugh at me but I’m in so much pain after losing my snake (for example) and no-one seems to understand”.
It seems that exotic pet carers can feel even more invisible and disenfranchised in their grief than people who lose more ‘conventional’ pets such as dogs or cats.
But the pain is just as real and valid.
On one forum, someone had recently lost their favourite snake. They simply couldn’t come to terms with how such a beautiful animal, their pride and joy, was no longer in the world. They had spent years learning about and caring for snakes but this most recent loss had completely floored them.
The grief of this particular person leapt out of the screen. They wanted to share photos, talk about their snake’s wonderful quirks and mourn their loss but they didn’t know who would understand.
Thankfully, many people on this particular forum had responded with empathy and understanding.
Find people who understand
Sadly, some people will never understand how we can grieve for what they see as an ‘unusual’ pet.
Animals such as snakes, spiders, scorpions, birds or rats, for example, are often the focus of phobias, so there will always be those who struggle to see how these animals can elicit feelings of love.
But your experience is different. You know the joy of caring for one or more of these animals.
Be reassured that your tribe is out there – people who understand your loss, who know the care you took over your pet and how they shaped the patterns of your life.
There are many articles on The Ralph Site blog dedicated to helping you cope with pet loss grief and the different emotions you may be experiencing. We’d like to share some of the key advice here:
Feel your feelings
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. People often feel embarrassed about grieving for an animal but the reality is that grief happens whenever we lose someone or something that we love from our life. You are entitled to feel your loss and all of the feelings that go with it.
Instead of fighting how you feel or believing that you need to bottle up your grief, try to give your feelings space to exist.
Grief has no timeframe
In The Ralph Site support group, people often say, “I know I should be feeling better by now” as if there is a time limit on grief. This really isn’t the case. No-one else gets to say when you are ‘done’ grieving. In fact, most people find that they always carry their grief to a certain extent – it’s just that it changes shape and becomes easier to live with eventually.
Acknowledge what you have lost
As pet carers, our pets shape our lives. Perhaps your living room is organised around a vivarium or your usual daily routine is built around feeding or handling your pet. Maybe you’ve made friends with people who are interested in the same kind of pets or you’re an active member of forums dedicated to pet care.
When you’re grieving, it can be hard to find the energy for self-care. Put a little time aside each day to eat something nutritious or to get moving. Spend time with your other pets, if you have them – caring for them and maintaining their routines is important and will hopefully help you feel better in the darkest moments.
Again, there is no right or wrong – only what feels right for you.
Reach out for support
There seems to be a growing understanding in our society that pet loss grief can affect us as deeply as grief for our human loved ones. Do talk to your friends and family about how you’re feeling, if you are able.
Yes, some people may describe your pet as ‘unusual’, ‘exotic’ or ‘unconventional’ but who’s to say what’s unusual, really? Whatever their species, your pet was part of your family, your life and the security of being at home. It’s little wonder that you miss them.
And remember that grief is grief, whatever its cause. It can be incredibly hard to process what has happened when the rest of the world seems to be carrying on, oblivious. Just know that there are people who understand.