Dog Lifestyle, Pets and Family, Senior Dogs

Grieving a Pet Loss and Best Pet Memorial Ideas

This Pet Memorial Month Best Friends Animal Society is highlighting the guidance, resources, and live virtual events they offer to help pet owners navigate the most agonizing aspect of having a beloved animal in our lives pass, grieving a pet loss. In addition, when they do how to memorialize your pet with a pet memorial. Learn about those pet resources and pet memorial ideas that you can use to commemorate your pet.  

Woman lying in the grass with an older dog hugging him.

Our Relationship with Our Pets Which Makes Losing Them So Hard

As Best Friends Animal Society notes, our relationships with our pets are unique and special bonds; they are like no other relationship we have in our lives. Our pets offer us unconditional love and support and see us through many transitions in our lives and even through painful losses. Pets are often the one constant, comforting and dependable relationship through difficult and changing times. 

Brown haired woman wrapped in a grey blanket sitting on a couch with a brown and white dog.
Losing a pet can be like losing a part of ourselves

Sometimes we spend more time with our pets (or desire to) than with anyone else. This intimacy intensifies the relationship and leaves a big gap when the pet is gone or in the case of anticipatory grief, even before they are gone.

When we lose a pet or sense that the end of life for our pet is near, we often feel we have lost part of ourselves. 

Losing a pet affects us in a profound way, but many people feel ashamed to address and express their grief when their beloved pets pass because so many people in their lives don’t understand or experience the joy of pet companionship. 

Resources for Pet Lovers When a Pet Passes

Whether saying goodbye to a pet is looming and inevitable, the loss is recent and raw, or this is a moment in time to honor the loving memory of a pet from our past, there are many kinds of support and resources available to reassure pet owners that they are not alone in processing these intense emotions. 

The Popular Pets encourages pet lovers to use those resources, since grieving and loving life with a pet go hand and hand.  Best Friends offers pet loss resources, including pet loss and grief hotlines and support groups, web pages, articles, books, resources for children and teens, and even references for therapists. 

Best Friends also offers video resources, including webinars, videos, and a guided meditation, led by Best Friends co-founder Cyrus Mejia and a webinar series called ‘Understanding Your Grief Journey’ with Coleen Ellis, an author, mentor, consultant, and blogger, and the recipient of the first certification in the United States for death and grief studies with a specialization in pet loss companioning from the Center for Loss in Fort Collins, Colorado

Best Friends also has an Angels Rest Facebook group to help those coping with grief and provide the opportunity to connect with others suffering similar losses. 

Best Friends provides these resources to help facilitate healing and assist people to know that they are not alone when experiencing the loss of a pet. 

Honoring Your Pet After They Have Passed: Pet Memorial Ideas

Woman in blue shirt and jeans holding brown dog from above.

Honoring your pet after a loss is an important part of grieving.  Best Friends has chosen to honor pets at Angel’s Rest, an incredible pet memorial located at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah where the memories of thousands of pets are honored.

Angels Rest is a place of profound beauty and serenity. Even on still days, you can hear the sound of the many wind chimes representing those who have so deeply touched our lives. To learn more about honoring a pet or person at Angels Rest, visit Best Friends memorials page

A monthly blessing is held at Angels Rest to honor beloved Sanctuary animals as well as staff and member pets who have recently crossed the Rainbow Bridge. A link to August 2022 is available here

To give you a sense of what a special place Angels Rest is, here is a virtual tour of Angels Rest, given last year by a very special host, the late Best Friends co-founder Faith Maloney. Faith passed away in early August, and she is deeply missed by all who knew her. Her spirit rings through the chimes of Angels Rest, like those we remembered during blessing and placement ceremonies. Learn more about Faith and her many contributions to Best Friends, here, Remembering Faith Maloney.  

Years ago, Faith began hosting a monthly blessing ceremony as a way to honor and celebrate all the animals who had left our lives but remain in our hearts. And each September, Faith would host an extra-special blessing, culminating in burning tribute cards sent in memory of pets who had crossed the Rainbow Bridge.   

Best Friends knows firsthand that the pain of losing a pet is very real, but many of us find some comfort in watching the ceremony with others who have experienced losses of their own. You can participate by sharing photos and stories of a special pet in the comments. In time, we hope that these memories evoke tears of a happier kind.  

Other Ways to Memorialize Your Pet After They Pass

Many pet owners, including us, have struggled with how to honor our pets after they pass.  Choosing the correct memorial seems so difficult amongst all of the memories and joy your pet provided.  

Here are some ideas to memorialize your pet:

  • A pet place in a garden.  Like Angel’s Rest, this can be an area where your pet is memorialized and a place you go to relive fond memories.
  • A tattoo.  A tattoo can be a permanent reminder of the love of a pet, stars like Miley Cyrus have many tattoos of past dogs.  (See our Article Dog Tattoos and the Meaning Behind Them)
  • Art in a necklace or other jewelry that serves as a remembrance like the unique pieces found here.
  • A piece of art hung in your home.  Hopefully, you have some favorite pictures of your dog that you can frame and put up if you have not.  This is a favorite way to remember a dog of ours, we comb through old photos and find our favorites and get them framed for a gallery wall.  
  • Donate a Bench or other contribution to your dog’s favorite dog park.
  • Fund another charitable cause that has meaning for you and your pet or volunteer and make it an annual habit that your do each year in memory of your pet.  Get inspo from some of our Pet Dad’s doing amazing things for dogs or charities supporting K9 Veterans.
  • Share a photo of your dog in our Old Faithful Gallery senior dog photo memories.

Taking Time to Grieve Pet Loss

Pet owners should not forget that they need time to grieve the loss of a pet.  Certain pet-friendly workplaces, like Best Friends, understand that need but all may not.  Best Friends honors pet loss grief in many ways, for visitors, volunteers, members, and employees by offering 40 hours of annual “Pawternity Leave” for employees, including bereavement time for the loss of a pet. 

The Help grief guide nonprofit notes that inevitably, the grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold and taking time to grieve pet loss will allow that to occur.

Loving Another Pet After a Pet Loss

Sometimes people struggle with how long to wait before adopting another pet says Best Friends. Some people need a long time to grieve and heal, and for other people, the void is too painful, and they adopt another pet to save a life and process their grief with a new friend. 

Two terriers looking up at a person who is wearing jeans on fall leaves.
Dog’s form bonds with each other too and may be grieving the loss of their friend

Just like how long is “normal” to grieve a pet, there’s no right answer when it comes to how long one should wait to adopt another pet. Other pets also share very real bonds and feel intense grief when they lose a companion.

The Dodo shared the story of a Best Friends employee whose dog Reece almost died of a broken heart after losing her best friend, but found joy again with a new pal named Jeep. 

When you consider getting a new pet think of Best Friends and of all of the other lives that are impacted, including other pets in the home.  

About Best Friends Animal Society  

Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters by 2025. Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer in the no-kill movement and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters from an estimated 17 million per year to around 355,000. Best Friends runs lifesaving programs all across the country, as well as the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary. Working collaboratively with a network of more than 3,900 animal welfare and shelter partners, and community members nationwide, Best Friends is working to Save Them All®. For more information, visit

You may also be interested in Ultimate Guide to Senior Dog Rescues

Pet Loss and Pet Memorial FAQs

How long does the grief last after losing my pet?

Each person is an individual and there is no specific time it should or does take to get over the loss of a pet. The important thing is to be understanding and take the time you need. In our experience, the grief does start to wane after a couple of months to a year.

Why is losing a pet so painful?

Pets are an important part of our lives and provide us with love, comfort, support, and companionship and now all of those are gone. We may be with our pets more than any single person in a day. The important thing is dealing with that pain, commemorating your pet and preserving fond memories.

How do you honor a deceased pet?

There are several ways to honor a deceased pet including a special place in a garden, a personalized article like a rock or bench, a tattoo, and planting a tree or a picture wall.

How do I keep my dogs memory alive?

There are several ways to keep your dogs memory alive including planting a tree, donating to a charity annually, make a picture wall and maybe donating something to your local dog park.

Find more dog advice and fun stories in our popular book called Motherpuppin’ Adorable: What to do when your dog is better than everyone else’s the perfect companion for navigating the best life with your dog. Learn more about this loved book.