Grief of a Pet Death

Illustration by Martha Pluto via

By Tamara Syed


This article is part of a series called, “The Many Faces of Grief.” As someone who has experienced various forms of grief, I hope to help others navigate through this difficult, but necessary emotion.

I didn’t believe in love at first sight until I met my first cat, Tiger. I was 16-years-old when I was visiting an aunt’s house and there he was, a kitten meowing at the front door. Apparently, my aunt had put him out there, thinking he would run away since she didn’t want him anymore, but he stood there waiting for something…someone. Maybe he was waiting for my mom and me.

Ever since that day, Tiger and I were best friends for a good 10 years until he tragically lost his life to a vicious coyote attack. It’s funny that this article was the toughest to write thus far, perhaps because animals are so innocent – a true expression of pure love.

If you recently lost a pet or reading this recalls memories of a pet that died, understand that you shouldn’t feel silly for grieving them. It’s a gift to be able to love something so purely and to build a bond with an animal during its short time on Earth.

Losing a pet is never easy, it’s an animal that has become a part of your home, part of your family. It’s an extension of all that is good and pure in the world. The ultimate expression of unconditional love.

Tiger was there for me during my first break up. I was sitting on my bed incessantly crying over a guy that I would soon forget, but in that moment, Tiger licked my tear-stained cheeks. The same cat that would scratch me at the slightest inconvenience wanted to take my pain away. How could he have known to comfort me in that moment? How could he have known that I was sad?

A pet loss is tough because I’m not really sure how to tell you that it will get better. It was an innocent friend that you probably raised from birth and now you must watch it go on without you. No more morning cuddles or little boops on their wet noses. The experience you had with this pet was necessary because it made you softer. You opened up your heart during a time when opening up your heart meant getting hurt. You chose love anyway and fully.

Tiger lived for a good 10 years and he was by my side through a lot of transitions and growth. Saying “Goodbye” to Tiger meant I was saying “Goodbye” to my youth. Tiger’s death was the first step in a necessary shedding that sparked a spiritual reset. Death has always brought me closer to life.

Just like our pets, we don’t get a lot of time on Earth. In fact, this planet has been here for 4 billion years and we might only get a good 60. That’s a blip in comparison so maybe, you should go after your dreams. Text your crush first. Dance the night away instead of saying, “I’ll dance the next time I go out.” Hug your pet. There may not be a next time.

Great loss can change a person negatively, but I refuse to let it. Choose, instead, to live again! Choose positivity; choose to love again! I now have two cats that keep me company.
If you have a pet, remember this: they aren’t here for that long so let them have a bite of your food and go on an extra long walk today and you should absolutely splurge on an oil portrait of them. If you recently lost a pet, remember “the rainbow bridge” and know that the love you carry for them has filled up your heart – making it stronger, bigger and more resilient.

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