We Need to Start Treating Grieving For Our Pets Seriously — Therapists Can Help

By Tara Yarlagadda |

MOURNING THE LOSS of a pet is difficult, but social stigma can make the process even harder and leave individuals to grieve in silence.

We often don’t regard the loss of a pet on the same level as a human death, even though many owners consider their furry friends an integral part of the family.

“For example, there are very few employers that allow for pet bereavement leave as they would a human death,” Michelle Crossley, an assistant professor at Rhode Island College, tells Inverse.

Crossley’s latest research reviews the scientific literature on pet loss, suggesting that mental health professionals like counselors and therapists can play an essential role in breaking the social stigma around mourning a pet. The paper was published in November in the CABI journal HumanAnimal Interactions.

“Grieving the loss of a pet is still trivialized in today’s society,” writes Crossley and co-author Colleen Rolland in the paper. Rolland is a pet loss grief specialist and the president of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement.

Since millions of Americans acquired pets during the Covid-19 pandemic, many more individuals will soon mourn the loss of their pets. Inverse broke down the paper’s recommendations and spoke with pet owners and mental health experts to unpack how to support our mental health as we grieve our pets.

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