Understanding and Surviving the 7 Stages of Pet Loss Grief
The stages of pet loss grief for some people over 60 are really no different than the experience of someone in their 20s.
However, if you are feeling a little raw or unsure with your emotions from the impending loss or the loss of your pet, keep in mind that what you are feeling is normal.
As I’ve shared in my other articles, grief has a life of its own and pet loss after 60 can also stir up some unresolved grief. It can put you in touch with your own mortality and feelings around the cycle of life.
Know that what you are going through is common, natural and normal. Your sorrow, apprehension, uncertainty and anger are okay and healthy to feel. Yet, there is more to your journey of coping with pet loss after 60.
Understanding the Stages of Pet Loss Grief
Pet loss grief actually has seven identifiable stages. By understanding these seven stages, your confusion and possible terror about what you and your pet are experiencing can change to give you greater peace.
Learning which stage of pet loss grief you are experiencing is extremely helpful for your coping and healing journey. You can gain compassion and respect for your unique experience, both of which are vital.
Living with a pet that has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, or having a pet that has died can be an experience in its own right. Your daily life of caring for your pet and/or dealing with your emotions will change from moment to moment. You want to do the best you can.
No matter what emotions you are experiencing, understanding the stage of grief that you are in is important.
The Seven Stages of Pet Loss Grief
It is extremely helpful to know not only what normal grief is but also what the normal stages of grief are. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a pioneer in the hospice movement. While she wasn’t a pet grief expert, the model she created can be applied to the passage of pet grief.
In 1969, in her book On Death and Dying, Dr. Kubler-Ross made the five steps of grief and/or death well-known. These five steps covered the stages of grieving for the death of a loved one. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
These five stages became very popular and are used widely, mostly during the dying process. However, other people working in this field began to expand her work.
Many practitioners in the grief and loss field have been inspired by Dr. Kubler-Ross as she was the forerunner. Although there is no one expert that discovered the seven stages of grief, they are the ones now more commonly used.
The stages are: Shock and Denial; Pain and Guilt; Anger and Bargaining; Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness; Adjustment to Life; Your New Normal; Acceptance and Hope.
These are the seven stages of grief that I use in my practice when helping people like you explore their grief and loss stages regarding pet loss. Over and over my clients tell me that knowing this valuable information now rather than later prepares them even more fully for the future. You too can expect that these stages will guide you to a deeper understanding of what you are experiencing with your feelings.
Keep in mind that since your journey is your journey, you may not experience all of these stages as your daily pet loss experience progresses. Yet, you may.
Whatever you experience is natural, so be compassionate with yourself about what you are going through. Never compare your experience to someone else’s because grief isn’t experienced in exactly the same way by all people. It is a unique and special journey that you are undergoing.
There are many examples on my website that describe this seven-stage journey. I also discuss case studies in all my books.
These stages provide references to guide you on how you can process your pet loss while still caring for your pet or after they have died. By no means do you need to experience them all or experience them in the exact order.
Have you ever had to deal with the grief of losing a pet? How many stages of grief have you already experienced? What have you learned about your unique journey through your stages? Please share with the Sixty and Me community.
Wendy Van de Poll is a pioneering leader in the field of pet loss grief support and the human-animal bond. As a bestselling author, speaker and coach, she has passionately devoted her life to the mission of increasing the quality of life between animals and people. Wendy has run with wild wolves in Minnesota, coyotes in Massachusetts and foxes in her backyard. Please visit her website.