Grieving the Loss of a Cherished Pet

Pet guardians often feel isolated and misunderstood when coping with the death of a cherished animal companion. Recognizing the need to provide bereaved pet owners with critical support, the San Francisco SPCA continues to offer ongoing pet loss support groups.

In 1982, the SF SPCA became the first humane society to offer a regular monthly grief counseling service—led by Dr. Betty Carmack. Although Dr. Carmack has since retired, the monthly support group continues under Dr. Cori Bussolari, associate professor of counseling psychology at the University of San Francisco. “The universality of the group is key—being able to express your emotions to others who can understand and relate helps provide validation. This group is exceptionally important for those who are grieving the loss of a beloved animal,” she explains.

Pet Loss Support Group Sessions

No reservations are needed. Groups meet on the first Tuesday of every month from 7:30-9pm in the SF SPCA Humane Education Classroom, located at 243 Alabama Street. (View map)

Additional Resources

Web Sites

Reading Material

  • Grieving the Death of a Pet
    By Dr. Betty Carmack, R.N., Ed.D., Augsburg Publishers 2003
  • Losing A Best Friend,  a collection of articles compiled by the San Francisco SPCA
  • Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children
    By Herbert A. Nieburg and Arlene Fischer, Harper & Row, 1982
  • When Your Pet Dies: How To Cope With Your Feelings
    By James E. Quackenbush and D. Graveline, Simon and Schuster, 1985
  • Living Through Personal Crisis
    By Ann Kaiser Stearns, Ballantine, 1984
  • Coping With Sorrow On The Loss of Your Pet
    By Moira Anderson, M.Ed, Alpine Blue Ribbon Books, 1996
  • The Grief Recovery Handbook for Pet Loss
    By Russell Friedman, Cole James, and John W. James, Taylor Trade Publishing, 2014

Books For Children

  • Helping Children to Cope with Separation & Loss
    By Claudia Jewitt, Harvard Common, 1992
  • Snowflake in My Hand
    By Samantha Mooney, Delacorte, 1983
  • The Tenth Good Thing About Barney
    By Judith Viorst, Atheneum, 1975
  • When A Pet Dies
    By Fred Rogers, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1988