Coping with grief over pets at Christmas – tips from a bereavement specialist

It can be easy to minimise the death of an animal, but if you’ve ever had a pet in your life you’ll know that losing them is utterly devastating.

Tomorrow marks the start of National Grief Awareness Week, and with Christmas also just around the corner, our thoughts turned towards those who are looking at spending a festive season without their beloved pets for the first time.

Diane James, the head of pet bereavement support services at Blue Cross, says any time of the year can be challenging without your faithful pal, but Christmas can be particularly tough.

She adds: ‘We need to remember it is not just dogs and cats, but all animals, from smalls to horses, that can bring joy into our lives and sadness when they leave us. 

‘The love we have for our pets makes every single one of these losses so important, and you need to make sure you take care and be kind to yourself.

‘What is important is knowing how you feel is normal. Having had a pet in our life that brought us joy, love, and memories is something that is very special.’

While grief can affect us all in different ways, there are things you can do to help yourself process the loss in a healthy way.

Memory boxes, festive and otherwise, are great options for keepsakes, or you may choose to get a painting or framed photo of your pet to hang in your home.

‘Remember there is no right or wrong way to grieve,’ explains Diane. ‘It can help to talk about how you feel and the memories you have, speaking to people who understand, really can make a difference.

‘One way to memorialise them that may help is to write down how the loss feels you would say to the if you could.

‘It will not replace the closure you would like to have, but it will help you to share your feelings about the loss. Placing this behind the pet’s picture, or in a memory box, can make a difference.

‘Some of us will want to memorialise the loss at this time of year by, for instance, adding a special bauble on the tree, planting a new plant in the garden, or putting a new pot by the door.’

You may also want to talk a walk along their favourite stomping ground, or sit in the garden near their favourite spot with a hot cuppa and a blanket.

‘If you have other pets, make sure to include them too,’ Diane adds.

‘Stick to their routines and remember they can pick up on sadness and anxiety.

‘That unconditional love they give is so special at any time of the year, so we have to think of them as well as being kind to ourselves.’

Blue Cross’s Pet Bereavement Support Service provides support 365 days of the year, including Christmas Day, from 8.30am to 8.30pm. To speak to someone and get support over the phone, email or web chat, visit

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