Losing a pet is never easy. Pets hold a meaningful place in your heart and life, just as you play a significant role in theirs.
For employees who are pet owners, the grieving journey can cast a unique shadow over their work life. Losing a pet changes the landscape of your daily life and can make the daily demands of work more difficult.
Whether you’re coping with your own loss or supporting a grieving colleague through their pet bereavement, our goal is to share practical guidance for looking after your wellbeing at work while you navigate this journey.
The grief of losing a pet
Any pet owner will know just how big a role our furry (and not-so furry) companions play in our lives. Offering unconditional love, companionship, and joy, the bond between pets and their owners can be akin to that of a close family member. This close blond sadly makes the loss of a pet a deeply upsetting and challenging experience.
The grief of losing a pet is marked by various stages, much like any other type of personal grief. However, while we may all experience these stages throughout our grieving journey, it’s important to understand that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Grief is deeply personal and subjective.
Everyone grieves in their own way, moving through the stages at their own pace — and the path is seldom linear. If you find yourself navigating grief in a way that doesn’t neatly align with your expectations of grief, remember your experience is personal to you. If, however, the grief is significantly impacting your wellbeing, please seek professional advice and support.
Coping mechanisms for pet owners
Many pet owners may feel like they can’t request time off from work. While there is no legal process to grant employees bereavement leave for pet loss, you should still speak to your manager or HR department to request any time you may need while grieving.
From offering bereavement leave to letting you work flexibly or being a listening ear when you need it, you may be surprised at the ways your workplace can be willing to help you during this difficult time.
As well as reaching out to your employer for support, there are lots of things you can do to help yourself on this journey.
While you are grieving the loss of a pet, recognise and feel your emotions. Acknowledge how you are feeling. Grief can show up in a myriad of ways. From sadness to anger, acknowledging your feelings is a crucial step in the healing journey.
Give yourself the time and space to grieve. Mourning is a natural and necessary part of the grieving journey. It may be uncomfortable but let yourself mourn as you understand the depth of your grief and, over time, come to terms with the loss.
Talk to other people too. Share your feelings with friends, family, and colleagues so they can offer empathy and support. Speaking about your feelings can be therapeutic, lifting a weight off your shoulders and helping ease the pain in your heart.
While reaching out for support, look towards pet loss support groups, friends who understand what you are going through, and professionals who can help. Having an understanding support network can offer much-needed comfort and guidance as you navigate the challenges of grief.
Above all else, don’t forget to celebrate their life and honour their memory. Your pet, undoubtedly, brought an abundance of joy to your life. So, make sure you also reflect on the happy times and create time to honour the light they brought to your life. Celebrating your pet’s life can bring a sense of closure to the bond you shared.
Strategies for dealing with grief at work
If you have ever had to work while grieving, you will know it brings extra hurdles to navigate. Having a go-to toolkit of workplace coping mechanisms can make it easier to navigate the tidal waves of grief whenever they hit. Here are some of our recommendations for navigating grief at work:
Know your capacity limits
While some people see work as a welcome distraction from their bereavement, others may struggle to connect with work and perform their job role in the way they usually do. Knowing your capacity limits is an important part of understanding what accommodations you may need at work during this period.
Talk with your employer
Make your employer or manager aware of your current situation. How much you share is at your discretion but telling them about your loss is a crucial step in ensuring they can help you navigate your grief at work.
Request understanding and flexibility
Some employers may have time-off policies for pet loss whereas others may monitor it on a case-by-case basis. It is always worth asking about any time off or flexible working accommodations they are able to offer during this difficult time. Make sure you advocate for yourself by asking for the space and time you feel you need to productively work while on this healing journey.
Take breaks when needed
Grief can hit at any moment. It comes in crashing, unpredictable waves. As a result, you may find yourself needing to take more breaks at work than usual. Let yourself take breaks as and when you need them, rather than pushing through the emotional pain and upset. By taking a break and giving yourself a moment to mourn, you may find yourself more able to focus on work after your break.
While dealing with loss you may need to establish temporary boundaries at work. Whether it’s reducing the number of meetings and calls you have or requesting that people don’t talk about their pets in front of you, there will likely be new boundaries you need to set while you navigate your grief.
Make your workspace comfortable
Your workspace can make a big difference to your healing journey. Whether you choose to add blankets, wear something comfortable, request to work from home, or wear headphones while you focus on your work, try to make your workspace comfortable. Having a comfortable workspace can make you feel more at ease, allowing you to work in a softer, safer environment.
Engage in meaningful projects
Having a sense of fulfilment can be helpful while mourning. You may want to immerse yourself in a work project that gives you a sense of purpose and meaning. This can be a productive way to channel your emotions into something that makes you feel good.
Use distraction techniques
You could employ healthy distraction techniques where suitable. It’s crucial to face your grief and acknowledge the experience you are going through. However, occasional moments of distraction can offer temporary relief by giving you something else to focus on. Use this strategy infrequently to make sure you aren’t using it as an avoidance tactic to suppress your emotions.
Practice breathing exercises
Your breath can be a powerful regulator of emotions. Incorporate mindfulness into your healing journey with breathwork and breathing exercises. Learning breathing exercises can turn your breath into a powerful tool for alleviating stress and regulating your emotions. This can bring a sense of calmness during such a challenging time.
Use your support network
You don’t have to navigate grief alone. Lean on your support networks, both personal and professional. Colleagues can offer understanding and empathy — especially those who are pet owners. Turning to others who are empathic can be a pivotal part of your healing journey as you deal with the complexities of grief.
Be kind to yourself during this time of difficulty. Grieving will impact your ability to work. You may find yourself losing focus, struggling to make decisions, or feeling more mentally and emotionally tired than usual. As such, you may not be able to work at the same standards or capacity. Remember this is part of the grieving process. Give yourself grace and practice self-compassion as you go about your work day.
Find moments of solace
Create moments of solace and solitude in your workday. Brief respites offer a chance to reflect, recharge, and find moments of relief. Just like taking regular breaks, make sure you are being intentional with your time out. These small moments of solace will be a big contributor towards your overall wellbeing during this time of bereavement.
Final thoughts — Be kind to yourself and seek workplace support for grief
Juggling work responsibilities while grieving the loss of a pet can be challenging. While navigating this experience, be kind to yourself. Remember the bond you had with your beloved pet and understand that your grief journey will be unique to you. There is no linear path to healing.
There are lots of practical coping mechanisms and support systems you can use while navigating grief. Be sure to find the strategies that work for you and seek support from your work colleagues, managers, and professionals.
If you are in need of support, please reach out to the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement support line on 0800 096 6606 (UK only including northern Ireland). This free support line is open from 8:30am-8:30pm every day. Alternatively, you can email their support service on