Pets and Breakups: Grieving the loss of your pet

Grieving the loss of your pet. Phew… this is going to be tough to talk about. As I type this, I have a huge lump in my throat and an all-consuming guilt. As I have previously written about, The Mental Health Battle After a Breakup, my divorce was not just the end of my 8 year relationship.

I was living in the United States without my family or friends and it meant I would be packing up my things and leaving to head back to Scotland. We had no children yet so our assets could be divided fairly easily… apart from Alfie. I am currently grieving the loss of my dog, who didn’t die… but I lost during my divorce.

Unconditional Love

My sweet Alfie, my four legged child, my beautiful chocolate Labrador and the apple of my eye. I didn’t grow up with dogs and when my ex had suggested we get a puppy, I was sceptical. However, I soon changed my tune when I met him. I trained him morning, noon and night and completely fell in love with him. He was my companion when I felt homesick and he gave me comfort when my marriage started to fall apart. I never expected to own a pet and then breakup. And now I live with that feeling that I abandoned him.

man with blue and maroon camping bag
Photo by Spencer Gurley on Pexels.com

The Guilt of Leaving a Pet

Unlike my ex, Alfie could not understand what was going on. He didn’t understand when I kissed him and told him I’d miss him. He didn’t know when I walked out of our front door for the last time. And for that I carry massive guilt. He showed me unconditional love when I felt so alone. When my anxiety was debilitating, he would curl up at my feet and lick them. How could I just walk out on him, when I had been his everything fo the past 4 years?

Grieving Your Pet

In many ways, I have grieved the loss of my dog, more than the loss of my marriage. Maybe that makes me a bad person, but my relationship with my ex husband had become very toxic and many hurtful things had happened that made walking away that bit easier. But not with Alfie. He had never shown me anything but unconditional love. And that makes it all the more difficult to walk away from him. He was not sick nor was I. It should not have been the end of our journey together, but it was.

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

How I Am Coping

Now, long after I have left, I still look through my photos and videos of my dog and depending on the day, I can cry or I can smile. There is no timeline when it comes to grief, it is complicated and I have found there is little support. I have found a few helpful sites online with some advice:

You are mourning the loss of your animal while they are still alive and you may feel bitter that you miss out on all those years together. You know that your pet is also grieving you. I wonder if he got depressed when I left, if he wonders where I’ve gone and that breaks my heart.

So how am I dealing with the grief of my pet? I have found that going to the park and seeing other dogs has helped bring me a little bit of joy. I take walks outside and listen to podcasts to replicate my daily walks with Alfie. One of these days, I’ll go to a shelter and rescue a dog, for now I have my memories that I’ll cherish forever of the relationship I had with him, and thankfully I know he is well looked after. I have even thought about volunteering at an animal shelter, although I am not sure I am ready just yet.

If any of our readers have ever experienced losing a pet, whether through a breakup or through the death of a pet, please let us know how you have dealt with or are dealing with it in the comments below!

Written by Jade