My Pet Died and I Can't Stop Crying

Crying after the death of a pet is a normal and healthy way of grieving.

Posted Mar 12, 2017

When we experience the death of a pet, the impact is profound, and at times it can be overwhelming. Having to make decisions on behalf of our pet can leave us wondering if we have done the right thing. The emotional impact of loss and absence felt can leave us feeling out of control, even crazy.  

As we process through our grief, our bodies go through a multitude of grief processes. We never truly "get over" our loss, but we can certainly move through it. This post highlights why it is healthy to express our emotions and to cry over the loss of our pet.  

Crying as a Healthy Part of Grief 

Jennifer Huls/123RF Permission
Source: Jennifer Huls/123RF Permission

Grieving is immensely taxing on the body, and impacts us within every area of our lives. We are affected physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even financially. Most of all, we feel the immediate absence of our pets impact within our lives when they leave us through physical death or other means.  

Our pets provide us unconditional love and acceptance. They greet us at the door when we return home, acting like we are celebrities, even if we were only gone for a short period of time. We are our pets' caregivers and provide them food, a warm place to love, and lots of love in return for all they give us.  

It makes sense then, that after experiencing the death of a companion animal we would grieve their absence. We adjust our daily routines around their needs. For example, even before feeding ourselves we commonly feed the dog, play with the cat, or head out to the pasture to provide hay for our horses.  

When we cry, our bodies are releasing the energy held inside. Grief is never within a box, meaning that one grief experience impacts and can influence the way we experience grief later on within our lives. If we held our tears inside and attempted to stuff our emotional expression, it could lead to much more traumatic grief experience down the line.  

Crying as a Self-Care Strategy 

Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain
Source: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

If we don't allow ourselves an emotional release, our bodies will attempt to figure that out for us. The body is constantly regulating itself to achieve homeostasis. For example, we sweat when we are too hot in order to cool off, and we shiver when we are too cold in an attempt to warm up.  

As we grieve the loss of a pet, our bodies will experience immense ups and downs of emotion. When our emotions need to be released, we commonly cry as an outlet to return to our homeostasis and move through our grief. Each time we release our emotions, our bodies are working towards healing.  

When we cry due to an emotional reaction, our tears are produced by the endocrine system. These tears chemically react within our bodies to promote a feel-good and pain-reduction cocktail. As such, our hormones allow the release of leucine-enkephalin, which removes toxins from the body in an attempt to reduce stress. Again, this is the body's way of working towards maintaining emotional homeostasis.  

Reintegration, Reclamation, Reconciliation

After a loss, we are commonly left feeling broken, and part of the grief process is to fit the pieces back together again. The thing is, most of the time (if not all), the pieces never fit back the same way. Many grief theories discuss reintegration, which is also called: reclamation, reconciliation, and/or acceptance

Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain
Source: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Crying through our pain allows our body the chance to work at reducing stress levels. As such, you can begin to reintegrate and move through your experience of loss and facing the death of your companion. Within the acute phase of death, or immediately following a loss, it is common to cry uncontrollably with intense duration. This is because our bodies are processing through the shock of loss and working hard to reduce the overwhelming emotional experience we are going through.  

Allow Yourself to Cry, Without Judgment 

It can be easy to think, I must be going crazy for crying so much. In the back of our minds, some believe that they shouldn't be grieving so much for a pet, which is made worse by the cultural stigma associated with grief and losing our companion animals.  

Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain
Source: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

The truth is, the strongest thing you can do is to allow yourself the space to cry. Sitting with our emotions can be incredibly hard within the grief process. Sometimes we feel as though we will never stop. Some of us don't want to face the grief or move through the pain. We can attempt to distract ourselves by throwing ourselves into our work, cleaning frantically, or running away from the pain.  
In order to begin the healing process, we must sit with our emotions and allow ourselves to process. To experience the pain means that the connection we shared was real, was powerful, and that connection and memories shared are something that's never lost.