The Loss of a Beloved Pet: 6 Ways to Stay Stable

Last Updated: 2 Jan 2019

At the difficult time of losing a pet, it’s important to have a plan in place to prevent bipolar disorder symptoms from taking hold.


My beloved kitty Bibi is gone. I was ready for her death and want to share with you what I’m doing in order to keep myself stable while going through the grief of losing one of my best friends.

Do you have a pet you love? Many of us find such comfort in our wonderful animal companions.

This next question is harder: As a person with bipolar, do you have a plan in place for real loss? In other words, are you ready for the loss of a beloved pet? Especially if this animal helps with your symptoms? I used to call Bibi my depression companion. What a lovely soul in a beautiful body!

Now she is a soul.

The death of a pet is a bipolar disorder trigger. We need a plan in place for when loss of a pet happens. It can be sudden or it can be drawn out as it was with Bibi. We need a plan now that we put into place when the news that a pet is ill or a sudden death happens.

When I heard Bibi had cancer, I had to think of many things outside of my grief. I made sure that I honored her every day she had left. But at the same time, I had to take care of my bipolar disorder. My motto is Treat Bipolar First. It is the only way I can move through life without getting sick.

I wrote the following the day after Bibi died.

I hope it helps you if you are going through something similar. And, if you have a pet and want to make sure you stay well enough to grieve and feel the normal sadness we all experience with loss, I hope you will start a plan now that can be in place when the death happens.

The hardest part of this by far was not knowing how her death might affect my bipolar.

On the day she died, I could not sleep. I wanted to write about her in my journal and remember her and cry. All natural behaviors. What was not natural was the fact that it was past midnight. At 1 AM, I realized it could be dangerous for my bipolar as I could easily not sleep at all.

I decided I could love her and think of her the next day. I forced myself to sleep.

I took extra sleep meds and got 8 hours. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I had a plan in place for what I would do if I could tell that my sadness and grief were morphing into mania or depression, and I used it.

Please think ahead….

What is your plan if your kitty gets sick? What is your plan if your best friend who happens to be a dog, simply gets older as all animals do and his time is near?

I want us to prepare for bipolar disorder triggers so that when they arrive, we know what to do.

Here is a short list of what I did to make Bibi’s death as gentle as possible for my brain:

1. When I realized that my sleep would be affected, I asked my mom to help with her care-taking. We were a team in this until the end. I could not stay up at night with Bibi. The guilt was enormous at first, but everyone helped. It also helped that she had a very compassionate vet.

2. I imagined life without her. I thought of what I might feel and opened myself to what might show up in terms of bipolar. Yes, I did this before she died.

3. I regulated my sleep. This meant sleeping in for two more hours than usual the day she died. It would be hard to do this if I were at a work place, but I have my own business, so it is possible. If you need this and do work with set hours, take sick time.

4. I decided to fully feel everything, but gave myself a time limit for grief. If I don’t do this, it will spiral into depression. This means I can cry naturally, but I will not let myself cry for five hours straight for example. When the panic attacks showed up, I felt them, did my breathing, talked to myself and worked through them. It’s so much easier to do this when you plan ahead.

5. I told my friends that Bibi was dying and asked for help.

6. When it was time, I took her to the vet and had a loving goodbye.

I want to learn from this experience so that when another pet or someone I love dies, I will know what works. I am not doing anything to push down my feelings or have less grief. That is normal.

But I am doing everything I can not to get sick. Depression is knocking on the door. I will not let depression in this hotel!

What is your plan? If it is very painful to think about this, I see that as a positive. It means you will need to plan ahead or the grief might be too much if something happens.

Let’s all have a plan ready for when a beloved pet leaves our lives.

When we manage bipolar, we can have the space needed to remember and celebrate all of the joy our beloved pet brought into our lives

Learn more:
5 Things NOT to Say to Someone Who’s Just Lost a Pet
How to Help Someone After the Loss of a Pet

About the author
Julie A. Fast is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Get It Done When You’re Depressed, and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder. She is a columnist and blogger for bp Magazine, and she won the Mental Health America journalism award for the best mental health column in the US. Julie was also the recipient of the Eli Lilly Reintegration Achievement Award for her work in bipolar disorder advocacy. Julie is a bipolar disorder expert for ShareCare, a site created by Dr. Oz and Oprah. Julie is CEU certified and regularly trains health care professionals, including psychiatric residents, social workers, therapists, and general practitioners, on bipolar disorder management skills. She was the original consultant for Claire Danes for the show Homeland and is on the mental health expert registry for People magazine. She works as a coach for parents and partners of people with bipolar disorder. Julie is currently writing a book for children called "Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Psychosis, and Depression." You can find more about her work at and
  1. I wish I’d read this years ago. My white Spitz, Alfie, was with me for 17 years. When he died in 2012 it nearly killed me. I felt I had lost the only one I could count on loving me and a few days later I attempted suicide. (Serious, not for show.) Of course I survived. At this time I still feel confusion about my actions. I knew that I was grieving and couldn’t work through it. I also knew I was bipolar and had to deal with that. But, I considered them to be two separate issues and dealing with both at the same time without any support overwhelmed me. Your article explained so much of what I felt and placed the event in a more positive light. Now after 7 years you have actually given me the tools to work through my grief and set a period of my life to rest.

    1. Thank you for sharing your honest feelings Carlos. You are not alone in what happened. When Bibi died I grieved her the way I would grieve a person. She was my friend. She was non judgemental. She was pure love. We are normal if we love our pets. Now, we can prepare ahead for this happening in the future. Bipolar has one reaction, we have another. It’s important we keep the bipolar managed. Thank you again for your comment. It will help a lot of people. Julie

  2. I went back to your newsfeed Julie to find this article.My dear sweet companion /therapy cat Sadie Grace & I have been on a rollercoaster since Sept’18 .After tests (the ones I can afford)the vet diagnosed Irritable bowel disease which flares up with bad symptoms from day to day.Lots of treatment regimes later,Sadie took a bad turn 3 days ago.She refuses food now,& has purged blood.Seeing the vet regularly and still giving meds but I am coming to terms now that she may not pull out of this state.I have decided not to tube feed her if that is the next step.She is only 9 but I cant afford it or prolong the stress for her or me.The rollercoaster of good vs bad days in her health is stressing me so much.I am just coming out of an intense 4 week depression and now I am watching her change before my eyes.It feels like a minute ago she was lying beside my face purring and swatting paper balls on the floor.4 days ago.I am so so sad and yes afraid what it will feel like to be all alone in the apartment.She is my friend,my source of mutual affection and luv and also a safety reason to stave off suicidal impulses if they arise.It took me a yr to find her after my 19 y.o. cat died.

    1. Yes, it is hard to see a beloved pet suffer. I made a similar decision with Bibi. I would not give her cancer treatment. It was a hard decision, but not one I regret. It is now March of 2019. I just re-read what I wrote. I am so glad I went through the process of really paying attention to my moods. I got sick, but nothing terrible. Now, I just miss her. The sadness gets easier. Julie

  3. An update. I thought long and hard about getting a new kitten once Bibi died. I was in so much grief due to losing here that I didn’t want to make a quick decision. After the grief lessened, I was able to think more clearly and I now have a kitten named Sadie. She is NOTHING like Bibi. It has been an interesting experience being with such a different spirit. She helped ease my pain. If you are in the process of losing a pet or have lost a pet, please know that is absolutely gets better, but it takes conscious work. We have to want to get better. We have to let go. I let go of Bibi’s spirit consciously. I let her go. I missed her so much and still do. She was my companion. She will never be replaced, but she is free now and I am so thankful she was in my life! Julie A. Fast

  4. I made a poster print using the best photos of Rocky. It is by my bed so I can be reminded of the times we spent together and the healthy days of my beloved canine companion. I prayed every night for God to help let go of my loss. And, I quickly found anew puppy to help fill the hole in my heart.

    1. I love this idea. I too have a picture of Bibi near me. Julie

  5. It’s been 2 days, 9 hours and a few minutes since I lost Jack-Jax. My precious, perfectly imperfect, beautiful, four legged 13 year old fur baby best friend. I cry a lot. I’m panicking, full of anxiety and unable to concentrate or sit still but I’m exhausted. I’ve tried counting in French for over half an hour, stimulating coloring books, movies, cleaning, texting, talking with friends, family and even my psychiatrist. I cant stop these uncontrollable movements, shaking, thoughts. Deal with the grief. I’m malfunctioning with no control! I see my counselor tomorrow. I’m lost. Utterly in the darkness despair I could have never prepared for. Don’t know what to do.

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