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Coping With Depression When Your Pet Dies

What happens when you are prone to depression and then your beloved pet passes away?

I’ve received so many wonderful comments since Luna died on Monday, and I’ll be sharing many of them in the days to come.

But I want to address this one first:

…I’ve had this dog since I was little, she is now 10 years old, and not as “young” as she used to be.
I have suffered from depression for a while, and, you being someone who lost a precious cat…what can I do so that when this does happen, that I can be okay, and not become depressed.
Do you have any advice to share?

Here are some things that have helped me this week:

  • Talking about it to every sympathetic friend and family member, over and over.
  • Crying with my family members, over and over.
  • Writing about IT (the pain). Letting the pain come out in print.
  • Writing about HER (Luna). Capturing her loveliness in words. This has been hard, especially at first. The first two days I couldn’t bear to think about her in any detail, but as the days go by I can begin to recall more and more little memories that make me smile.
  • Cuddling my other cats.
  • Trying to change my focus, forcing myself to notice optimistic things. (I loved the “Dog Found” sign so much I ran home to get my camera!)
  • Doing something in her honor. In my case, reaching out to other bereaved pet owners through my blog, planning a family cat garden for her ashes and those of our other kitties, planning a continued blog forum for discussion and information on this topic.

Please help add to this list!

Other Ways to Honor the Memory of a Lost Pet:

  • Volunteer at a shelter or wildlife center, or make a donation.
  • Adopt a needy animal only if and when you are ready.
  • Write a poem or story about your pet.
  • Paint a picture, write a song, make a photo album, etc.
  • Volunteer at a school or child-care center (animals and children being kindred spirits).
  • Get back in touch with an old friend, make up with an estranged family member, etc (channel your pet’s generous love by reaching out to someone you might not have).

Can you suggest other ways to honor a cherished pet?
Mary writes this:

My husband and I just lost our Bichon, Nikki to old age…I miss my Nik = he was with me all the time.  He was my sounding board, he kept me company when my husband worked long hours.  He was always there.  I felt so bad when we took him to the vet hospital on Easter because I knew it was time and had been time for a few days.  I still cry.  He was my be all and end all and I miss him terribly.  I am not a sentimental person yet he made me so.  Will it get better?

What has helped you feel better after losing a beloved pet?

Good Music for a Good Cause: UFO’s album, Unity Creates Strength, benefits Chile and Haiti.

Coping With Depression When Your Pet Dies

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS is an educator, counselor, writer and speaker. She's been a tutor, test prep coach and home school teacher for over thirty years. Click HERE to visit Leigh's website and to subscribe to her newsletter, "Learning Something New."

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APA Reference
Cousins, L. (2010). Coping With Depression When Your Pet Dies. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Apr 2010
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