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Coping with the Grief of Pet Loss

Each year on the second Sunday in September, people come together in observing National Pet Memorial Day. On this day, pet owners honour their pets, both past and present, and think about and share with others the important role their beloved pets have played in their lives.

We thought we would (attempt to) cover the difficult issue of how to cope with the loss of a pet. As this is not something we have dealt with for a long time, we felt it was best to enlist the help of the expert team at Patch & Purr Cremations. 

Doris Zagdanski is a leading figure in modern day grief and empathy education and she’s also the author of
‘When Pets Die – It’s alright to grieve’

She explains that “The joy of owning a pet goes hand in hand with the sorrow of losing one. It makes no difference that we know they have a shorter life span than we humans – but we just get so attached. Grief can often feel like an isolating experience, it can be hard to talk about and the people around you might not understand why you are so upset. It’s normal to be out of sorts, and possibly more emotional than you expected.”

If you have children, the loss of their pet is often a child’s first experience with death. We can never underestimate the bond between a child and their pet. It's not just cats and dogs that become part of the family, smaller pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs and reptiles can also leave a hole following their passing.

Not only will it be a devastating time for the whole family, but it may also spark other questions regarding mortality and what happens when we die.

There are many ways you can prepare your child for the inevitable death of an ill or senior pet. An unexpected death can be incredibly difficult for everyone, particularly children.

Find support knowing you're not the only one dealing with this tough period of adjustment in the days and weeks following your loss. 

Ana Kingi works as location manager in Sydney for Patch & Purr, a pet cremation business that opened at the start of this year.

From a young age, Ana has always had a deep connection with animals of all walks of life. Growing up, she was surrounded by a motley crew of cows, horses, dogs, sheep, cows, cats and even 'Monty', a Burmese Python! Whilst completing her studies in Zoology, Ana also volunteered at Taronga Zoo and the RSPCA

When the time came to get a 'real job', Ana found herself in the corporate world for the next 20 years. So when the opportunity to join Patch & Purr was presented, it was a natural progression to finally combine her business experience with her love of animals to be part of a business she passionately believes in.

“Every day, we have the honour of bringing beloved pets into our care, ensuring they are always treated with the highest dignity and respect” shared Ana.

“Being a part of Patch & Purr is incredibly rewarding. It provides the opportunity to assist pet families through one of the hardest times in their life. A family entrusts us with their beloved pet, so it means a great deal to be able to provide them with the comfort, reassurance and service they need. 

Every day, we are supporting families who have lost their beloved pet or who may be planning ahead for a sick or elderly pet.

It's important to us that our pet families understand that it is okay to grieve, it is okay to cry. They have just lost a valuable member of their family and 'we get it'. We hug and cry with some families, and always love hearing stories about the pet coming into our care.

I remember taking a call one morning recently from Dena, fur mum to 15-year-old Spot, her beloved Border Collie. Spot had started slowing down and showing signs that his time was drawing near, so Dena rang us to get an understanding of the process, ask questions and start planning.

She told me she was going to enjoy the day with her boy, that they were sitting in the sun together while she had a cuppa. Around 4pm that day, I received another call from Dena, reaching out for our assistance. Spot had slipped away, in his sleep, lying in front of the fire with her stroking him. We hear many sad stories of sudden and unexpected loss of sudden, so Spot's gentle passing was a beautiful and poignant transition that made us all cry. 

When we collect a pet that has passed away or been euthanised at home, we are often faced with a devastated family unit. We encourage people to spend as much time as they need saying goodbye

We provide reassurance to the family that we will take special care of their boy or girl. 

We even encourage family members to write a letter to their pet, explaining how much they meant to them; or to place a photo and/or a special toy with themThese things can generally be cremated with your pets and expressing your feelings in a letter can often help with the grieving process. 

Every pet that comes into our care is treated with the highest dignity, respect and honour. Each pet is individually cremated, this is guaranteed through the Pet Tracker 360 system ensuring the ashes returned home are of pet and only your pet. 

Additional support like regular group pet counselling and an annual pet memorial service are also available.” added Ana.

Something you also need to remember is that it’s not just the human family that is grieving... 

When one pet dies, you may notice a change in your other pets’ behaviour. Unlike the human family members, pets cannot tell us how they feel. As a result, they may present with a variety of behaviours including a lack of interest in their favourite activities, poor sleeping habits and reduced appetite
Pets don’t just grieve for the loss of their fellow species. You may even notice a cat mourning the absence of a canine friend and vice versa. Just like humans, all animals behave differently in the wake of loss.

If a pet dies at home, you can let other pets smell their friend’s body. This will help them understand what has happened. In fact, if they see their companion after they have died, it will be easier for them to understand. 

If a pet is euthanised at the vet, their absence may confuse other pets in the household. 
For those who are struggling with the loss of their pet, we encourage people to speak to a qualified pet grief counsellor or if they prefer, talk to a trusted friend/family member. There are so many great books out there on pet grief and loss. Reading some of the literature available can help with understanding the emotions that a person is going through. There are also some great kids’ books available to help explain grief to children. 

We would like to extend our thanks to Lauren Cummings and the team at Patch & Purr Pet Cremations for all their assistance on this story.

About Patch & Purr Cremations

Patch & Purr offers pet cremations in Sydney, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Central Coast. Patch & Purr Pet Cremations is located at 230 Kanahooka Road, Kanahooka (1h30 South of Sydney), NSW, 2530.

For more information, please visit

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