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How to Cope After Losing Your Emotional Support Animal

How to Cope After Losing Your Emotional Support Animal

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion. They are animals that has been certified by a medical doctor. ESA’s help people who are battling a disability or mental illness. In most cases, ESAs are dogs, but other animals like cats are also applicable. People who need ESAs are usually diagnosed with psychological disabilities that impede their capacity to function normally. These medical issues may include panic attacks and major depressive disorder among others.

Table of Contents

An ESA versus Service Animals

Emotional support animals differ from service animals. In a way that the former has no explicit task-training. While the latter are trainable to accomplish specific tasks. ESAs give comfort, affection, non-judgmental positive regard, and support to the suffering person. However, ESAs must be trained to prevent undesirable behaviors like barking at people, defecating in the wrong places, growling, etc.

Proper certification from a therapist and a doctor is needed for proof. Proof, that owning a pet will improve some part of the disability at hand. As per the US federal law, owners of ESAs must meet the federal threshold of impairment and present a certified letter from a psychologist to that effect.

The Anguish of Losing Pet

Seeing how vital emotional support animals are to a patient’s well-being, one can hardly imagine the pain of losing their beloved companion. Just as other pets, these animals are susceptible to disease, theft, accidental fires, etc. There are harrowing tales of pets that died in unfortunate circumstances leaving their owners lamenting for months on end. People get attached to ESAs, and they become an integral part of their lives that transcends the healing component.

In 2017, the New England Journal of Medicine reported a case where a 61-year old suffered chest pains after her dog passed away. The doctors diagnosed her with takotsubo cardiomyopathy which is a scientific term for broken heart disease. Some people describe the loss of a pet as more excruciating than losing a relative, and this goes to show the depth of these bonds. So, then, how does one cope after losing their emotional support dog?

Grief Coping Mechanisms

There are several coping mechanisms for coping with losing an emotional animal:

1. Social Support

Numerous studies have derived that social support is instrumental in overcoming the grief of losing a pet. Unfortunately, society has double standards when it comes to people versus pets and therefore, one must seek support from people who understand their pain. For instance, writing an emotional animal letter and sharing on an online forum is helpful to you and others in a similar predicament.

2. Crying Out

Believe it or not, there is a scientific component for crying our eyes out when grieving. This self-care strategy helps our bodies to release the pent-up energy and helps to release emotions rather than suppressing them. The latter approach is detrimental and could exacerbate underlying emotional problems. More so, having a good cry sets the stage for any future grieving so there is less trauma should such agony reoccur in your lifetime.

3. Reintegration

As the grieving process ensues, the pet owner will start picking up the pieces, but in most case, they will not fit the same way as before. Reintegration or reclamation is the final step of grieving as the intensity of emotions decreases and the person starts to move on. Penning a heartfelt ESA letter to your departed companion is a befitting goodbye that paves the way for a new chapter.


At American service pets, we understand how painful it is to lose an emotional support animal. We help you find another emotional support animal to help you resume the recovery process soonest possible. Call us or visit our offices today for emotional support to overcome your loss.

Get Your ESA Today


Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.


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