Dealing with pet loss and mental illness


Our Pet “Praying”

A friend of mine has been dealing with her adult son’s recent psychotic episode. In the midst of it all, they had to put their beloved pet down. Where can she (or anyone) go for comfort at such a time?

How could I comfort my friend? I sent her a sympathy card and enclosed this message:

A Symbol of Unconditional Love by Vicki

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:11

How can we comprehend such love?

A little child draws a picture to show his love for a parent. God’s expression of love can be seen in His creation. He paints an exquisite sunset to bless us. How can we fathom such tenderness toward us? Is it even possible to understand how much He loves us? The King of all kings loves us unconditionally.

We get a peek at unconditional love through our beloved pets. Sometimes we feel foolish or even guilty that our pets mean as much to us as family members. Why do we love them so? Maybe it’s because we yearn for that unconditional love they show us. Each day, we receive unearned affection from our pets.

If we neglect our dog in the business of life, he still loves us. No matter how long we leave our pet, he faithfully sits by the door or the window waiting for us. When we are brokenhearted, he sticks close to us and licks away our tears. He is happiest simply when near us. If we yell at our four-legged companion or mistreat him, he’s forgiving. Our furry family member can be so gentle and yet can still protect. He sees us at our worst and loves us anyway. One of the few things in life we can depend on is his constant adoration.

No wonder, we grieve so much when they die. Routines and daily activities will never be the same. Entering home without their celebratory greeting will be painful to bear. Through tears, we’ll do simple tasks like putting dishes in the dishwasher. How we’ll miss their presence. How we wish they could live longer!

One thing remains. Unconditional love. Not from our pet, but from God. We recall our faithful dog and remember He is faithful. We picture our pet waiting for us and know God waits faithfully for us if we stray from Him. The memory of our pet sitting at the door conjures up a picture of a patient Father waiting at the door of our heart (Revelation 3:20). The exuberance our dog showed at our return reminds us of the exhilaration and compassion the prodigal son’s father showed his long-lost child (Luke 15:20).  Then, we begin to understand the sheer joy we bring to our Father.

We mourn our loss, but are comforted by the fact that our Father is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). The sudden lack of protection of our watch dog is replaced by the assurance that God protects us (Psalm 46:1).

The tears we shed were once licked away by our dog. A reminder that God will one day wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4). We reflect on the many things we did with our furry friend. Then, think of our true and perfect Friend (John 15:15).

Our pet demonstrated unlimited forgiveness. God offers life-saving forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

Our hands which once embraced a loving pet now cling to God’s message of love. We cuddle up with the Bible and read words from One who is acquainted with grief. Our heavenly Father willingly watched His only Son die. For us.

I pray this has comforted you in some way, as well.

9 thoughts on “Dealing with pet loss and mental illness

  1. I loved this article and the devotion you wrote about how less can be more. I also live with chronic pain and have a son with a mental illness who is also on home dialysis… It felt like a miracle when I came across your writing! I see this is from 2016 and was wondering if you are still writing or whether you’ve published anything. I don’t know your last name so I couldn’t look you up. Today your writings have touched me so deeply and I just wanted you to know. May God bless you and your son.

    • Hi Lisa,
      Sorry I didn’t reply sooner … I’m currently fighting a cold.
      I’m also grateful you stumbled on my blog. Our journey with chronic pain in the context of also having a son with MI can be a very lonely one. A path that others cannot fully understand unless they are experiencing the same challenges.

      I did stop posting on my blog because my attention had to shift to my elderly mother. She had to go into a dementia unit of an adult facility around that time, and we had to sell her house. We were also renovating several rooms, and our son (who has MI) was moving out. Life became even more overwhelming, as you can imagine. But God proved just as faithful. Up until 2016 I had posted quite a few devotions (for you to check out).

      In 2013 I self-published “Heart Eyes Beth and the Bullies” which is available on Amazon. The years of bullying that our son, Chris endured was my primary motivation for writing the book (in addition to my experiences as a teacher and school administrator).

      Together in His grip,

  2. Thank you so much for your response and words of encouragement! If you are thinking of restarting your blog, I would love to read it. In the meantime, I will read definitely read your earlier posts. Right now I’m just trying to cope and stay positive. I’m praying without ceasing these days… I have recently retired from teaching myself and it’s been quite an adjustment to dialysis partner and caregiver. Fortunately I am attending a caregiver support group and have been a part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness for the past 20+ years. I hope you feel better soon and I sincerely appreciate your reply!

  3. Dear Lisa,
    It’s a joy to meet someone like you who prays without ceasing no matter what. I’m glad there’s a caregiver support group in your area.

    I will soon participate in our church’s training to make our church a welcoming place for people with mental illness (training provided by Access Services with their “mission to support those at the intersection of faith and mental health”)

    We can do all things through Christ who strengths us (Philippians 4:13).


  4. By the way, I have been reading some of your previous blogs. They have been very helpful and encouraging to me! I feel as if I definitely need that throughout the day. I paused periodically and read one blog at a time and thought about it for awhile… Again, I can’t thank God and you enough because it’s been so timely. Like a lifeline.

    • If you don’t mind, I’ll reach out to you periodically and leave comments on some of your previous blogs. I’m so glad you’ve kept up with the site even though you’re no longer posting. I didn’t know if it was still active or not, but figured I had nothing to lose by reaching out. 😊

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