Grief Counseling

Local Groups and Resources

Family, friends and society don’t always understand how drastically the loss of a pet can affect us, and therefore they can find it difficult to support the grief we often feel. The San Diego Humane Society’s Pet Loss Support Group provides an environment where thoughts and emotions can be shared with those of similar circumstances and feelings of grief are understood and validated. Our Grief Counseling group is facilitated by a licensed, clinical social worker.

Reservations are encouraged but not required. Evening and weekend sessions are available to best accommodate your needs. Click here or call 760-510-1010 for more information or to make a reservation. Please bring a picture of your beloved pet to the session.

The Grief Counseling group is open to everyone ages 10 and up and is appropriate for those who have recently lost a pet, are still mourning an old loss, are anticipating the death of a pet or are preparing for euthanasia.

If you are:

  • Feeling lost without your pet
  • Wondering what to tell your child about the loss of a pet
  • Finding that family and friends fail to understand or attempt to minimize your loss
  • Wondering if it is too soon to get another pet
  • Still grieving for a pet you had some time ago
  • Considering euthanasia

…then the San Diego Humane Society’s Pet Loss Support Group may help. Losing your companion animal can be an extremely difficult and painful experience, and we offer a caring, compassionate understanding of your loss.

Suggested Readings

  • Saying Good-bye to the Pet You Love
    Lorri Greene, PhD and Jacquelyn Landis, New Harbinger Publications, 2002
  • Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet
    Moira Anderson, Peregrine Press, 1994.
  • The Human-Animal Bond and Grief
    Laurel Lagoni, Carolyn Butler & Suzanne Hetts, W.B. Saunders and Company, 1994.
  • Preparing for the Loss of Your Pet
    Myrna Milani, DVM, Prima Publishing, 1988.
  • Oh Where Has My Pet Gone?: A Pet Loss Memory Book, Ages 3-103
    Sally Sibbitt, B. Libby Press, 1991.
  • The Loss of a Pet
    Wallace Sife, Howell Books, 1998.
  • The Tenth Good Thing About Barney
    Judith Viorst, Athenum, 1971.
  • Charlotte’s Web
    E.B. White, Harper Junior, 1952.
  • Remembering My Pet: A Kid’s Own Spiritual Workbook for When a Pet Dies
    Nechama Liss-Levinson, PhD and Rev. Molly Phinney Baskett, SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2007.


Child Grief Counseling

The death of a beloved family pet can cause elicit a wide array of emotions from both adults and children. The typical stages of grief are denial, sadness, depression, guilt, anger, and recovery (or relief). These emotions can be quite pronounced especially if the passing of a pet is sudden and unexpected. For children, the effects of grief can vary widely depending on the child’s age and maturity level. Much of the child’s reaction to death depends on their ability to understand the finality of life.

2-3 Year Olds:

Almost all children in this age group have no understanding of death. They tend to consider death a form of sleep. At this age, parents should tell children that their pet has died and will not come back. However, parents should stress to children at this age that the death of the pet is not due to anything the child may have said or done. Most children in this age group can easily accept a new pet in place of the deceased one.

4-6 Year Olds:

Most children in this age range have some understanding of death, but they believe that the pet lives on somewhere else. A child in this age group tends to believe that the pet has gone to heaven or is living somewhere in the sky with other animals that have already died. Some children might even believe that the pet is just continuing to sleep somewhere else.

Some children in this age group may begin to think that their own death is imminent and that the death of those around them is likely to occur. Parents should reassure children in this age group that death is not likely to occur and that the passing of the family pet is just natural. Children in this age group sometimes experience disruptions in sleeping or eating habits and may even experience bladder/bowel problems. Parents should maintain open lines of communication with children in this age group in order to allow them to express their feelings.

7-9 Year Olds:

Children in this age group often begin to realize the finality of death. Although they tend to believe that death cannot happen to them, some do think that the death of their parents or other loved ones is a reality. Parents should be honest with children in this age group if questions arise about death.

Some children in this age group can experience problems in school, aggression, or other antisocial behavior. Additionally, other children may tend to become overly needy or even withdrawal from normal activities. Sometimes these reactions will not occur immediately; but rather, over the course of several weeks or months.

10-12 Year Olds:

Most children in this group begin to understand death as something that is part of the circle of life and is something that cannot be reversed. Parents should continue to keep open lines of communication with children in this age group in case they feel the need to discuss their feelings.

Teens and Adolescents:

This age group of children tends to react in a way very similar to adults. However, some adolescents can express grief through forms of denial. Many children in this age group tend to internalize their feelings and thus do not tend to have outward displays of emotions. Again, parents should recognize the possibility that children who display little to no emotions over the passing of a cherished family pet could actually be experiencing intense feelings of grief. Parents should keep communications lines open and be prepared to discuss those feelings with their children.


Although the passing of a cherished family pet is a natural part of the life cycle, it is an event which can cause emotional and behavioral problems in children. The information in this article certainly not meant to be all inclusive, but is simply a general guideline to assist parents with grief management in their children. If you, or your children, feel you need professional assistance during this difficult time, then please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to recommend a professional to assist you.

Contact Us

San Diego County
120 N Pacific St #C-4
San Marcos, CA 92069
(760) 510-1010

Orange County
27068 La Paz Rd. #770
Aliso Viejo, 92656
(949) 313-8030

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