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How Animals Help in Grief

When grieving, it can be harder to describe how you are doing, and how you are carrying your grief. You may not want to talk about what it feels like or how the pain affects you. Not having the right words to say can cause you to grow frustrated when others don’t understand you, or they lose interest in the conversation. You might be tired of being asked the same thing repeatedly. Did you know you can turn to animals for grief support? Here’s why:

Animals Can Help in Grief

Seeking support from pets or animals is one of the best ways to help you with grief. Every person feels the pain differently, but animals are perfect friends to turn to for those who may be more introverted or may not want to feel the pressures of socializing.

“In fact, animals were ranked the highest among all forms of social support, which included categories like friends, family, community members, faith leaders, therapists or counselors, support groups, and faith leaders.”

According to Pets More Effective for Grief Support than Humans, Study Finds by Ashley Bobak, PsyD.

So, what kinds of animal therapy can help my grief?

There are different ways you may find comfort from animals. Animal-assisted therapy can include petting cats or dogs, and other pets, playing with pets, horseback riding, and going to places that offer therapy or having the animals come to you. Different programs and non-profits in your area may offer this (like the dog therapy program through the University of Wisconsin – River Falls).

How can animal therapy help my grief?

It is well-known that dogs are considered one of the best and most popular pets. Humans tend to agree with the saying, “A dog is a man’s best friend.” Individuals who participated in the study mentioned earlier have noted how hugely dogs impacted what they are experiencing.

“I feel supported by my dogs. Simply because the love is unconditional.”

According to a participant of the study.

“They brought my dog to the hospital to see me. I think that’s the thing that probably was the divider between going into depression and not.”

According to one participant of the study when asked about a time when animals helped them emotionally.

Specifically, equine therapy has posed many benefits to the individual. One study recognized that it,

“…improved self‐esteem, self‐confidence, empowerment, a sense of self‐presence, and feelings of freedom, independence and competency (Tan & Simmonds, 2018). Horses can recognize human emotions and respond in an intentional way (Smith, Proops, Grounds, Wathan, & McComb, 2016).”

According to Equine-assisted therapies using horses as healers: A concept analysis by Sharon White-Lewis.

But…I don’t have a pet?

If you are an animal lover who does not have a pet, it can be hard to find the reassurance you need when carrying your grief. Try animal-assisted therapy! Through animal-assisted therapy, you can find support from groups or individuals who provide this service where they can bring a dog to visit you, or you could spend time with horses through a program. There are options available to you, so why not research a little?

Contact us if you need grief support. We have support groups available to help you at this time.


Bobak, Ashley. “Pets More Effective for Grief Support than Humans, Study Finds.” Mad In America, 24 June 2021,

Cacciatore, Joanne, et al. “What Is Good Grief Support? Exploring the Actors and Actions in Social Support after Traumatic Grief.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, Accessed 27 Dec. 2023.

Cacciatore, Joanne et al. “What is good grief support? Exploring the actors and actions in social support after traumatic grief.” PloS one vol. 16,5 e0252324. 27 May. 2021, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0252324

White-Lewis, Sharon. “Equine-assisted therapies using horses as healers: A concept analysis.” Nursing open vol. 7,1 58-67. 27 Sep. 2019, doi:10.1002/nop2.377

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