Loss of Pet and – Broken heart Syndrome – How to cope with it

loss of pet and broken heart syndrome how to cope with it

The death of a pet could be really devastating and the grief is too big to overcome. Dogs are a man’s best friend. If you ever owned a pet, you will be knowing how true it is. When one loses a pet, one goes through a traumatic experience known as Broken Heart Syndrome.

Whether it is dogs or cats or hamster or a canary, humans create strong bonds with their friends be it scaled or furry. Normally presence of a pet has a therapeutic effect. There may not be certificates for it but these pets really improve the standard and quality of our living in a wide variety of ways. There are studies [1] to prove that pets bring us joy and are our great companions. Not only this if you have pets, you will be able to better cope with health problems like heart disease, mental health disorders and cancers.

The death of a pet can be an emotionally shattering experience. It may have negative effect on our physical and mental health.

Like the case which is described in “The New England Journal of Medicine”[2] about a 61-year-old woman who started getting intense chest pains after the death of her dog. She was admitted in a hospital where doctors said that she had suffered from “broken heart syndrome” which is similar to a heart attack. She recovered after getting medications but she was completely broken after the death of her Yorkshire Terrier. Loss of a treasured pet can be as devastating as losing a loved one.


It has been found by researchers [3] that social support is important for recovering from the grief. When there is loss of a person, there is generally support from near and dear ones. However, this may not be true for pets. People generally do not seek or get support on loss of a pet and this can lead a person into a vicious cycle of isolation, shame and guilt. This time could be particularly difficult for children who are having to go through this experience for the first time. They may suffer from Broken Heart Syndrome.

It Can Be Hard on Children

Talking about a real life example, Leah Carson remembers her first pet. It was a Golden Retriever called Sandy. She remembers that they did everything together, played together in the snow and how it would follow her to her room when she came from outside. She says that Sandy died when she was 11 and it was the most heart-breaking experience. Things were never the same for them again. She was close to suffering from a broken heart syndrome.

Roxanne Hawn author of a book on pets says that children are especially vulnerable to this loss. There are many ways through which adults and parents can help them move on and deal with the sorrow. Their grief should be channelized into something productive and it’s about taking action rather than ignoring the grief. If you grieve together, children may be better able to process the loss and they should engage in activities in which each person or member of the family should participate.

An example could be writing and jotting down happier times on colorful paper and put them in a bowl. Anytime there is a moment of grief, the person could pick out that slip of paper and remember those happy times. Children who are too small and cannot write can draw pictures of their pet. Children should also retain the pet’s memento with them like a toy or collar which can help them cope with the loss or the broken heart syndrome.

it can be hard on children

Being an Adult Doesn’t Mean That the Loss Is Less

It may seem that adults have a lot of experience and they have been through tough times so they know how to cope but it couldn’t be far from the truth. Losing a pet is very difficult for older people as well.

Seniors have already been through so much loss; friends, family, life and more. Pets are a reason for older people to socialize, exercise, take care of them as they get companionship and they find the lost purpose again. But when a pet dies, all of this gets lost.

Frankel has come across many patients who are going through the trauma of having lost their pet. They are overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and shame. This further makes the grieving process difficult. Some people who have lost their pets to car accidents feel they could have done more to save their pet. And others who decided to euthanize their pets get horrified with their decision.

So, these people should be easy and compassionate on themselves and must forgive themselves for those unavoidable circumstances and spend time with others who empathize with them and understand their emotions and feelings.

Pet grief support groups could be really beneficial. Frankel adds that one on one therapy could also be useful as some people cannot open about their loss in groups and therapy may trigger deep loses which can come up to the surface and this also may have to be dealt with. This can make it debilitating for the person and difficult to cope with the series of loss. So individual therapy may work in such cases.

being an adult doesnt mean that the loss Is less

Coping Ways

There is no sure shot way which can guarantee that adopting it could help you relieve the trauma but there are many ways which can help. They can read books like “The Loss of a Pet” by Wallace Sife and “How to Roar” by Robin Jean Brown. There are many pet loss support groups and online resources which can help a person deal with the loss.


Is Adopting Another Pet A Solution?

You can never have the same experience and there cannot be another one like the one you lost and the idea may seem like your cheating and are being disloyal but that’s not true. Pets bring joy to us and make our lives fulfilling and satisfying and at the same time we make their lives enriching. There’s a lot to gain by adopting another pet and share your love as there is so much love in the pet owners to give. This could actually mend your broken heart.