Pet Loss Grief and Anger:
The 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.
"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.
Someone is responsible for your pet’s death through reckless, negligent, careless or cruel behavior.
You missed your pet’s early symptoms or did not respond to a crisis the way you wanted.
Your pet suffered too long before you chose euthanasia.
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. Angry energy can also be a constructive force for good. But when anger becomes the defining characteristic of your grief, a stuck place that causes you and everyone around you to suffer even more, please consider seeking support from a professional counselor, spiritual advisor or trusted friend to gain a better understanding of it.
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.
He offers a wise and compassionate perspective on companion animal death.
Is it ever possible, or helpful, to label someone's grief process abnormal?
COVID-19 has upended our lives in big ways and small. Grief and anger can intensify due to the other losses caused by the pandemic.
Here are some resources for coping: