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Pet Loss Grief and Anger:
A Bridge Across the Abyss

Anger is an honest expression of pet loss grief. Its intensity may surprise you because underneath your anger is your pain. Read more to understand the benefits and drawbacks when anger fills your grieving heart.

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"Anger surfaces once you are feeling safe enough to know you will probably survive whatever comes. At first, the fact you lived through the loss is probably surprising to you. Then more feelings hit, and anger is usually at the front of the line as feelings of sadness, panic, hurt and loneliness also appear." ~David Kessler

No Apologies Needed   

When we are grieving, anger is another indicator of how much we loved the one who died. If you feel anger over your pet’s death, you owe no one an apology for your grief—or your anger. It is human to be angry and underneath your anger is your pain. Consider, too, that anger is not a “requirement” of grief because every person’s grief is unique and not every griever will feel its force.



Pet Loss Grief and Anger

There are many reasons to be angry when a beloved pet dies. Here are just a few:


  • The veterinary professionals misdiagnosed your pet’s illness or gave inadequate treatment.



  • You missed your pet’s early symptoms or did not respond to a crisis the way you wanted.

  • Your pet's euthanasia was not peaceful, or the staff seemed uncaring.


  • Friends or relatives make insensitive remarks such as “He was just a dog.” Or, “You can always get another cat.”


  • You now believe you had your pet euthanized too soon.

  • You were on a trip, or in the hospital, and your pet died in someone else's care while you were gone.



  • God let you down and did not answer your prayers.


  • Or, fill in your own reasons here.



Anger Is Normal

Anger is a normal part of grief—a bridge of strength and energy, at a time when there is little of either, across the abyss of loss. Anger tells us that we are alive, and we loved our pet very much. We are angry because now that beloved pet is dead. Anger is progress because it means we are feeling the emotions of grief needed to heal. The more we honor our loss by allowing ourselves to feel anger, the more healing we will do.


The Problem Is Not Anger

People will criticize our anger because it is uncomfortable to be around. The problem is not anger. The problem arises when we misdirect anger—unfairly—toward others or turn the anger upon ourselves.

Misdirected anger is often expressed in confusing or hurtful ways. Those who get the blast of displaced anger are usually closest to us—the people and remaining pets we most do not want to hurt.


The Negative Effects of Anger


Anger turned toward self can create physical and emotional problems such as ulcers, high blood pressure, heart attack, anxiety, inflammation and all the disorders that are associated with inflammation, depression and abuses of food, alcohol, drugs or gambling.


Lashing out at the people or remaining pets around us, or engaging in reckless behavior, creates all sorts of chaos in our lives. We are already grieving. Anger can cause us to do or say things now that we will regret later, resulting in even more pain.

Unacknowledged anger grows larger and larger until it erupts. Suppression (ignoring it) never works. Angry energy will not go away. It must be released. The more you can understand your anger—how you react when you are mad—the more you can make changes that allow for your healing.



Anger Is Important

Anger is an important part of grief. It’s yours, you earned it, and no one can (or should) take it from you. Anger can also be a motivating and useful emotion. When anger becomes the defining characteristic of your grief, however, a stuck place that causes you and everyone around you to suffer even more, please consider seeking support to gain a better understanding of it.This support could come from a professional counselor, spiritual advisor, family member or trusted friend.



Finding Yourself

Never forget that you are angry because you deeply loved and now the one you loved is gone. You may be shocked when the intensity of your anger is in direct proportion to the intensity of your love for the pet who has died. Explore your anger because the more you allow the feelings to surface the more of yourself you will find. Mostly, it will be the pain of loss and your grief will change form again, not in circles going nowhere round and round, but in upward spirals of healing.


Related Reading

The Ralph Site: Pet loss anger: How to cope when you can’t stop feeling angry

Good article but best viewed on a desktop due to small print.

Blame, Shame and Guilt: Making Decisions for Our Pets by Adam Clark, LCSW

He offers a wise and compassionate perspective on companion animal death.

Losing a Pet Due to Divorce or Breakup

We grieve when we've lost something that we have come to love, pets included.

Incomplete Endings: Coping With a Runaway or Lost Pet

Moving through the grief and guilt while not knowing how our pet may be doing. 

Verywell Mind: 11 Anger Management Strategies to Help You Calm Down

Managing anger can help your body and brain respond to stress in healthy ways.

Psychology Today: 6 Tips for Dealing With Your Anger

How to change your relationship with anger.

Blue Moon Senior Counseling: Managing Increased Anger With Age

Learn the effects of anger on older adults with anger management tips for seniors.

General Grief | Psychology Today

The Trouble with Complicated Grief

Is it ever possible, or helpful, to label someone's grief process abnormal?

Why the Five Stages of Grief Are Wrong: Lessons from the (non) stages of grief

Angry, Sad, and Weary? 5 Steps to Balance, Without Meditating

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