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Losing a Pet After 60 is Especially Hard. Here’s How to Recover

By Wendy Van de Poll January 17, 2024 Family

As a woman over 60, having a pet in your life can give you boundless love and happiness. You probably don’t need anyone telling you that the love you have for your pet is amazing.

Yet, you can be devastated when you learn they have a terminal illness or have reached the end of their life. And, as a woman over 60, you may experience certain expectations about how you should feel and maneuver your grief.

I am here to share how to let your grief happen!

Who Experiences Pet Loss Grief?

Everyone who loves their pet experiences grief in their unique way. We can’t avoid it. It is a natural emotion to experience. Whether your loss was recent or a long time ago, or if you have a pet that’s dying, your heart may be split open, and you may feel uncomfortable with what you are feeling.

In fact, your emotions may be creating chaos in your life – you may be feeling extreme anxiety or even depression. You may be unsure of what to do next. Expectations that you shouldn’t have these feelings can be challenging.

Keep in mind that what you are going through is normal. If you are feeling lonely or hopeless because you don’t know who to talk to, how to get help or who to get help from – you are not alone.

What Is Pet Loss Grief?

Right now, everything is different and new for you. Your pet is either very sick or no longer physically with you. This can give you some very uncomfortable feelings that you may not be aware of or feel comfortable with.

If your blood is starting to boil because you are so angry that your best friend died, or if you are feeling guilty, depressed, numb, or even in shock – you are experiencing normal pet loss grief.

Being a woman over 60 dealing with pet loss grief can be a harsh ride. You may feel incredibly alone or misunderstood. Family, friends and even strangers may say some very unsupportive things to you. You may even feel like you shouldn’t feel the way you do because you will be perceived as crazy.

Keep in mind that your experience is valid. It can also be very healing and profound by changing how you view your own mortality and how you want to live your life. One thing that I talk about in my books is that once you understand what normal grief is, your journey will become different – and more manageable.

When you learn as much as you can about your feelings and emotions, the journey can be more enriching. Instead of feeling misunderstood, old or unsupported, your heart will be filled with love and compassion for yourself and your pet.

Where Does Pet Loss Grief Happen?

Grief is a rollercoaster ride, and we can’t avoid it. Normal grief is varied and expansive. Pet loss grief is no different. It can have a life of its own and can happen anywhere.

You can be going through a quiet period of your daily life journey when you are feeling relatively good. Then something happens, and it triggers intense, and perhaps unexpected, feelings of pet loss grief. I encourage you to let this happen. Let yourself feel what you are going through no matter where you are.

Many of my clients say in their support sessions, “What drives me crazy about my grief is that it has a great talent of surprising me when I least expect it. And just because I am 65 doesn’t mean I am weird to express what I am feeling… right?”

I tell them that it is better to actively acknowledge, process and experience their feelings than to stuff grief down only for it to pop up at unexpected times and in unwelcoming forms.

Why Is Losing a Pet So Painful?

We are our pets’ caretakers from the moment they set their paws, feathers or scales into our homes. They are our family. The human-animal bond is different than what we have with our friends and other family members.

Even though we love our friends and family members and they love us – who loves us unconditionally? Our pets do!

Our pets are not “just dogs” or “just cats.” They are special companions that shower us with 100% unconditional love. They bring a unique relationship to our lives that provide a sense of meaning and purpose.

How Does Pet Loss Grief Affect Your Life?

The changes you may be experiencing, and your feelings of being lost without your companion can have a tremendous impact on the way you are moving through life. There is no denying that losing a pet is tough!

To soothe your soul, keep in mind that your bond with your beloved pet was not shared by anyone else. It was entirely exclusive and exceptional to the two of you. Therefore, what you experience is going to reflect your personality, your pet’s personality and all the things you shared together.

Your life purpose and the journey will not end. Instead, you will gain some incredible insight about how your life has been enriched and soulfully balanced because of the love you shared with your pet.

Appreciating your experience is just part of your passage to healing your heart from pet loss. Learning and finding support is another.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you ever had to deal with losing a pet? How did you deal with your feelings? How has your pet impacted your life and heart? Please share your answers and comments below.

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Catherine Vance

Thank you. I am crying right now. Lost one, then another, then the last of my three sweet
Labs year after year. Cried more for them (because they were like children) than my father, who was ready to go at 88. And my losses weren’t recent–they were 2, 4 and 7 years ago!
Wow. Still crying. The COMFORT is: Remind yourself how LUCKY they were to have had a fabulous life with you and wish all were so lucky.


I never expected to feel such intense grief over the loss of my pet. But he and his sibling sister had been with me through so much, including my husband’s battle with pancreatic cancer and the recent deaths of my mom and dad. For 16 years he was a source of comfort and companionship, a “gentleman,” and when he passed away around my birthday last November, I was devastated.

I turned to my daily writing and CBT journaling practice for solace, but I could only write “GRIEVING” or “DEPRESSED.” It was as if I needed to acknowledge the depth of my emotions in writing to validate them.

I realized that grief is not something that can be rushed or ignored. I allowed myself to skip my birthday celebration, did not decorate for the holidays, and celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in a low-key way.

I am now focused on loving, spoiling, and supporting our remaining cat as she grieves and lives her life out peacefully (like royalty!).


“My favorite hello and my hardest goodbye.” After I lost my sweet boy to cancer, very unexpectedly, I became actively involved in animal rescue and support of those who have illnesses that prevent them from temporarily caring for their pet. I help find foster homes and do what I can to care for the myriad of surrendered pets who are yearning for attention and love. And yes, I rescued a pup who has helped bring joy back into my life and reminds me of all the love I shared with the furry friends I’ve lost!


In August, I put to rest one of our 18 year-old cats and only two months later her sister. I was in the middle of another loss…walking away from a stressful job that I decided would no longer eat away at me. I don’t spend a lot of time wondering how I survived these and so many challenges faced as a childless widow, but I know with every ounce of my soul that if it weren’t for the love and purpose my cats have given me over my entire life, the layered grief surely would have killed me.

I live now with my extraordinary expressive and loving 9 year-old orange tabby with whom I found peace from all of my grief. He was there for half of their lives keeping them young as he continues to do for me. Although loving your humans doesn’t compare, perhaps if you are like me, at this stage in our lives giving your heart to a precious, unconditionally loving companion is what we can allow to reward our souls without giving up on a purposeful and enriching life. Let no one tell you how pitiful that sounds. Forgive them. Help them understand it is a commitment with just the right amount of involvement a woman-of-a-certain-age’s heart can handle.

In the theme of this article, please consider taking the leap of giving a home for a companion from a shelter. They need your love as much as you need theirs.


Thank you KVS. I am a childless widow as well. My kitty helped me through the loss of my husband.
After loosing both, time has stood still for me.
Sincerely, Ilse

The Author

Wendy Van de Poll is a leader in the fields of pet loss grief support and self-publishing. As a thirteen-time bestselling author, speaker and coach she works with people all over the world with their animals and writing their books! Please visit her website for pet loss or website for self-publishing

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