Pet Loss Grief and Disenfranchisement

Losing a pet is painful in itself.  A pet, especially a dog, cat or even horse can form a special bond with someone.  Due to their intelligence, emotional bond, and even overall meaning to the person, the loss of a pet for some can be as painful as losing a family member.  This is far from crazy or insane but is a true reality.  This is even more so for individuals with few family or friends left.

Still despite this pain, many also suffer from little support in these types of losses.  The loss is dismissed as insignificant or not equal to other losses.  This type of disenfranchised grief is not respected, supported or mourned by others.  Instead the person is left to grieve alone and even feel stigmatized for feeling sadness over the loss.

To many, pets are family and the loss of a pet is horrific. Unfortunately, many downplay the loss of a pet as not as important as human loss.


The article, “Review provides new perspective on grieving the loss of a pet” by Cabi of PsychOrg takes a more in-depth look of this type of disenfranchisement in a discussion with Dr Crossley who works with pet loss grief.  The article discusses the impact of disenfranchisement of pet loss grief but also shows how this type of grief manifests in other types of losses.  It is important, according to Dr Crossley, to help others through any type of loss and not to minimize it.  The article states,

“The researchers say that stigma associated with grieving a loss can complicate the healing process and that counselors would expect to see more clients wanting to discuss their grieving—particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They add that while empathy may come more naturally when discussing human loss, there are other types of loss that are not acknowledged or given a similar amount of attention by society.”

Review provides new perspective on grieving the loss of a pet. Cabi. November 25th, 2022. PsychOrg

To review the article, please click here


It is increasingly evident that pets have evolved from being mere domestic companions to important members of our households. While their presence has long been theorized to provide comfort and alleviation of mental health, recent research indicates that they offer an even more profound impact on our lives. Pets, in fact, are capable of providing a form of social support which can prove beneficial in terms of helping us cope with stress and anxiety.  In specific, dogs have long been established as a source of companionship and friendship, but their role in human life is far more significant than that of a mere friend. In fact, canine-human relationships have been the focus of an increasing amount of interdisciplinary research, demonstrating the neurobiological and psychological benefits associated with these cross-species interactions.

Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief is a concept used to refer to those who experience loss that is not adequately acknowledged, understood, or accepted by society. It has been described as the “unrecognized and unacknowledged” losses that individuals face without any societal support or validation. The lack of recognition in such cases means that there is no social ritual or language for expressing these feelings, leaving them unable to grieve formally.

The term ‘disenfranchised grief’ refers to the process by which individuals are unable to adequately express their grief due to a lack of societal recognition or social support for mourning those who have died. In regards to pets, this concept can be particularly relevant as these relationships may not be understood or recognized by others, leaving the bereaved unable to engage in traditional rituals of grief and healing.

Assisting individuals through pet loss is an invaluable component of psychological welfare, as it can serve to promote a sense of connectedness and resilience within the community. By providing a platform for those affected by pet loss to process their grief, pet loss support groups act as an integral mechanism for mitigating the emotional turmoil that often accompanies such a devastating event. Moreover, the therapeutic benefits of discussing one’s experiences with others who understand can ameliorate feelings of isolation and foster mutual understanding between participants.


In conclusion, disenfranchised grief is a unique experience that should be acknowledged, respected, and openly discussed. It affects individuals in different ways and can range from minor inconveniences to more complex issues. It is important that those experiencing disenfranchised grief are offered support and resources to assist them in processing their emotions. Additionally, it is crucial to recognize the existence of disenfranchised grief as it has significant impacts on psychological health.

Pet loss is an incredibly difficult experience to handle. It can bring a range of emotions, but it is important to remember that it is a part of life and that you are not alone in your grief. To help cope with the pain, reach out to a friend or family member for support, join a pet loss support group, or seek professional counselling. Remembering the impact our beloved pets had on us and our lives in a positive light may help us heal.

It is important to help others process this grief by respecting it.  Pet Loss Grief Support specialists can help individuals better process this loss.  They can help others understand that the loss is important and respected.  If qualified, please review AIHCP’s Pet Loss Grief Support Counseling Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program in Pet Loss Grief Support is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Pet Loss Grief Support.

Additional Resources

“Including Pet Loss in Your Grief Counseling Practice”. Lisa Hutchison, LMHC. Counseling Schools.  Access here

“A Beloved Pet’s Death Can Trigger Deep Grief. Finding Support Can Be Tough”. Cara Murez. Nov. 28, 2022.  US. News.  Access here

“Grieving the Loss of a Pet: Why It’s So Hard and Tips for Coping”. Lily Velez. November 29th, 2022.  Access here

“How to Grieve the Death of a Pet”. Healthessentials. October 4th, 2021. Cleveland Clinic. Access here