Our recent blog article featuring ten fantastic books for children about pet bereavement proved to be a popular addition to The Ralph Site. But we know that it’s not just children who can derive great comfort from books tackling the heart-breaking topic of pet loss and grief – we adults need support too.
As a companion to this, we’ve put together the list below of ten of our favourite books about pet bereavement that are aimed at adult readers. We hope you find one or more titles helpful.
By Kate McGahan
This book is the fourth in the Jack McAfghan pet bereavement series by Kate McGahan and is written from the perspective of Jack, the author’s Afghan hound mix. Although the narrator is a dog, the contents apply to any pet and their carer.
Only Gone From Your Sight walks us through what to expect in the lead up to, at the time of and after a pet’s death. The tone is compassionate throughout and recognises that pet bereavement can be a lonely experience as other people may not know what to say or how to offer comfort.
There is a spiritual element to this book in that the author, through Jack, tells us that there are signs of our pets everywhere and that they are only gone from our sight but not gone from us altogether.
By Gary Kowalski
Many people feel self-conscious about being so heartbroken over the loss of a pet, as though we don’t have permission from society to grieve or that it isn’t right to mourn a pet as much, if not more, than a human.
The comfort of Goodbye, Friend is that it recognises that we share the intimacies of our everyday lives with our pets. They sleep near us, watch us as we get dressed for the day or ready for bed at night, hang out as we cook. They give us physical and emotional comfort every day and love us unconditionally. In many ways, we share more with our pets than with most of the people in our lives. We are bound to miss such a constant, important presence.
Reverend Gary Kowalski talks about bereavement within the context of Christianity in places but the book is open-minded about different beliefs.
By Alan D Wolfelt
“You loved your pet. And because your love was deep and profound, your grief is deep and profound. That is both normal and necessary. Never be ashamed of your grief over the death of a pet.”
This quote from When your pet dies sums up this book perfectly. It is a compassionate, realistic and gentle look at the issues we face around pet bereavement.
The book explores the unique nature of grief for a pet, remembering and memorialising a lost companion, talking to children about death and much more. There are blank pages throughout the book for workbook-style exercises that encourage you to express your feelings and memories.
By Dr Wallce Sife
You’ll find this award-winning book listed on our main page of book recommendations but it’s so popular with bereaved pet carers that it’s worth a mention in this list too.
The Loss of a Pet is slightly clinical in tone, which isn’t for everyone, but it does a great job of recognising why pet bereavement is so tough and why our pets hold such a special place in our hearts.
This book is particularly important because it covers all types of pet loss, including traumatic deaths and pets going missing. It also addresses why it’s completely understandable if you decide to bring another pet into your home straight away or if you decide you’re not ready.
We love how this book normalises pet loss grief.
By Liz Eastwood
This is one of the only pet bereavement books specifically about cats. It beautifully interweaves the author’s own feelings and experiences with advice from professional therapists and fellow cat lovers.
The bite-sized chapters are easily accessible through the fog of grief and cover topics such as learning to ignore people who don’t ‘get’ your loss, understanding your feelings, looking after yourself, ways to honour and connect with your cat, creating something positive out of loss, saving your memories, choosing a continued connection with your cat instead of expecting ‘closure’, and much more.
By Tracie Barton-Barrett
If self-help books aren’t your thing then you may take comfort from reading this novel, which tells the story of three women and their friends and the deep connection they have with their pets.
At its core, the novel is about the coping mechanisms we need to bridge the joys and the sorrows of caring for an animal. It makes you laugh at the funny pet antics but also addresses the lasting impact of pet loss and how we can honour our furry, scaly or feathery companions.
By Russell Friedman, John W. James & Cole James
This book is a sympathetic and straightforward self-help guide written for grieving pet carers. Chapters address common myths about grief that can slow down your healing, while the book walks you through a series of exercises designed to help you work through your feelings about your beloved pet. This book considers the practical elements of pet loss as well as the emotional impact and culminates with encouraging you to write a letter to your lost friend about the times you shared.
By Roxanne Hawn
Although the loss of every pet can hit hard, most pet carers agree that there is an occasional animal that takes the feelings of loss to a whole new level when they die. People often describe these animals as their ‘soul’ or ‘heart’ pets, creatures whom they shared a special connection.
Roxanne Hawn’s book Heart Dog recognises how devastating it is to lose a ‘heart’ pet and it’s a great comfort for anyone who feels that their friends and family just don’t ‘get’ the depth of their grief.
The author offers practical advice about dealing with the step-by-step, day-by-day acceptance of your loss. The tone is kind, understanding and never judgmental, offering you the tools and space to deal with the emptiness of losing your best friend.
This book is more suited to those of you who expected your pet to die due to old age or illness rather than a sudden, unexpected loss.
By Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio & Nancy Saxton-Lopez
In this beautifully written, generous book, the authors share stories from decades of experience gained from leading pet loss groups. Throughout the chapters, they perfectly capture the emotional roller coaster you may have found yourself on since your pet became ill, injured or went missing.
The book recognises that love and loss go hand in hand, especially with animals because they have much shorter lifespans than we humans. There is plenty of practical advice, examples and tools to help you during your time of grief.
Above all, there is a positive message about what our pet companions give us in their lifetimes and the huge role they play in our lives.
By Marybeth Haines
Although this book isn’t as well-known as many of the others on this list, it stands out because it deals with the very real trauma of unexpected pet loss. The chapters cover topics such as your reaction to shock, feelings of guilt, wondering how you will ever heal, how to move forward and more.
The tone is understanding, comforting and practical with plenty of tools to help you come to terms with the sudden loss you have suffered.
In compiling this list, we’ve tried to highlight a selection of books that cover a wide range of animals and pet loss circumstances. Some books will resonate and some won’t but we hope you find some comfort.
If there are any books that we’ve missed from the list that you have personally found helpful, do let us know so we can add the titles to The Ralph Site.
As always, know that you’re not alone.
Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support