Navigating Grief: Coping with People Who Don’t Understand Our Grief

Losing a beloved pet is a deeply emotional and often traumatic experience.

For many pet owners, our furry friends are sometimes our sole companion, full family member or  even essential to how we cope with life when we consider guide or service dogs.

During this difficult time of grief, it can be incredibly comforting to receive empathy7 and support from family and friends. However, not everyone may fully understand the profound impact the loss of a pet can have. Oftentimes pet owners themselves are overwhelmed and confused by the deep emotional experience they have, and may even struggle to take good self-care during this time.

The most important thing is to realise that the grief  you are experiencing about your loss is entirely – normal. Some pet owners judge themselves about how they feel, and try to suppress their emotions.

Let’s be honest, our society suppresses and rejects the big topics of death and loss, promoting an attitude to “get over it”, “get on with live” or even worse “not indulge in self-pity” all the way to “you must be strong and just push it away, you can’t change it anyway.” We live in a world of success, affluence, replaceability, grit and agility where the expression of emotion and vulnerable is mostly seen as a weakness, not as a strength. It is important not to judge or criticise people for their attitude, they simply don’t have the same emotional experience and deal with death and loss in their own. At the same time, pet owners need to cope with these situations as they are walking on the painful path of the grieving journey.

Understanding Empathy and It’s Importance

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It involves not only sensing and recognising the emotions someone is experiencing but also offering support and validation in an appropriate way. For pet owners grieving the loss of their animal companion, empathy plays a crucial role in helping them navigate the complex emotions that come with that loss.


Challenges of Dealing with Lack of Empathy:

Minimizing Your Grief: Some people may downplay your grief by saying things like, “It was just a dog” or “ You can always get another cat”. These comments can be perceived as  hurtful and dismissive of the deep bong you shared your pet.

Ignoring your Pain: Others may avoid discussing the topic altogether, as if your grief is something they’d rather not acknowledge. This can make you feel isolated and unsupported during a time when you need it most.

Offering Unsolicited Advice: Some well-meaning people might try to provide advice on how to “move on” or “get over it.” Sometimes they even try to see a positive with remarks such as “now you can on holidays more often”. While their intentions may be good, such advice can be unhelpful and frustrating.



Ways to Cope for Dealing with Lack of Empathy:

Find supporting people: Seek out friends, family member or support groups who understand and empathise with your grief. Sharing your feelings and tears with those who can relate can be incredibly therapeutic.

Educate when possible: Some people may simply not fully understand the depth of the human-animal bond. Consider sharing articles or stories that highlight the significance of pets in people’s lives.

Set boundaries: If someone is consistently insensitive or dismissive of your grief, it’s okay to set boundaries. Politely but firmly express your need for empathy and understanding, and let them know how their comments or actions affect you.

Remember It’s about Them, Not You: Sometimes, people’s inability to empathize stems from their own limitations or experiences. It’s essential to recognise that their lack of empathy may not be a reflection on how they value your pet or what you are going through.

Focus on Self-Care: Grieving is a personal journey, and it’s important to prioritise self-care. Engage in activities that bring you comfort and solace, whether it’s creating a pet memorial,  journaling your feelings, seeking professional counselling or contacting a Pet Memorial Celebrant for compassionate support and a meaningful tribute.


While it can be challenging to cope with people who don’t understand what you are going through, it is important to remember that your feelings are valid and normal. The bond between pet owners and their companions is unique and profound. Your grief is a reflection of the love you shared. Seek the company of people who can provide the support and compassion you need.