Sleep facts: How to manage pet loss grief and stress

Sleep facts: How to manage pet loss grief and stress

I've been grinding my teeth at night a lot lately. Between that and the insomnia that I frequently experience, it's no wonder I often wake up feeling exhausted. I know that grief can have a huge impact on my physical body - even when my brain doesn't register it - and so I chalk up some of this to my pet loss experience, but that truth doesn't make me feel any better as I try to trudge through the day.

I'm sure I'm not alone. When we grieve, our sleep cycles are likely the most adversely-affected aspects of our lives (other than our mental health, of coures). Many grieving pet owners find sleep to be elusive (this is me), while others feel the need to sleep more than normal. Either way, it can be tough to get back in a restful groove when in the middle of pet loss.

The distressing thoughts that accompany grief and loss contribute to sleeping too little or too much. Thankfully, there are a few things we can do to promote good sleep which will be necessary for wellness during this time. The most important thing is to help our bodies and minds recognize the need for rest, even when we're in the midst of bereavement. The following are some of the simplest ways you can trigger a sleep response without medications and other nasty habits.

Stress And Sleep Pet Loss Tiny Pet Memories

How to Stimulate Sleep During Pet Loss Grief 

Sticking to a nighttime routine

This is probably the best way to ensure better sleep, especially when you’re going through something as stressful as the loss of a furry companion. You need to remind your body of the schedule you used to keep so that you can get plenty of rest. Although the simple act of going to bed can trigger memories of your pet, it’s important to focus on the natural rhythm of life. Winding down before bed is an essential aspect of this rhythm.

There are many ways to aid relaxation before bedtime. You might take a warm bath, have a set bathroom routine, or write down your thoughts in a journal. You can also find sleep apps that guide you through cognitive behavioral solutions for insomnia - our article goes into details about these.

Meditation and visualisation for sleep

Meditating is especially helpful when it comes to finding your sleep rhythm. With anxiety at such a high level during the grieving process, you need something to help calm your mind and focus on positive things. Meditations - which often include visualisations - are a great way to focus on a positive or calming through or image. Thinking intentionally about comforting ideas and memories will lead your body to a calmer place as well.

Guided meditation recordings are available on YouTube and through various apps - we've covered a bunch of them in other articles. These offer different narratives that walk you through the relaxation process. Some tones and styles might cause anxiety for one person but be quite relaxing for another, so look for the range of voices, styles, and speeds to suit your unique needs. 

Progressive relaxation for sleeptime

This is another method for aiding in sleep that focuses more on preparing the physical body for sleep while focusing your mind on the task of relaxation. Anything that helps you clear out the distracting and distressful reminders of your grief is a good way to wind down and drift off to dreamland. This technique basically involves tensing muscles and then relaxing them, working your way through every muscle group. Through physical encouragement, you can convince your entire body and mind to relax and ease the stress of grief. Several of the meditation apps discussed in previous posts will guide you through this approach as well.

Try supplements and warm beverages for pet loss insomnia

If these techniques don’t help you relax and get the rest you need, consider taking magnesium supplements or drinking tea with herbs that promote relaxation. Magnesium is extremely useful for relaxing muscles and promoting a calm body and is a good idea even if you're not suffering from insomnia. Warm beverages (caffeine free please!) are also soothing and can warm you up and loosen your mind just enough to get snoozing. Not too much, though - you don't want to have to get up in the middle of the night!


Most importantly, you must be patient with yourself as you learn to overcome the symptoms of pet loss grief and get back into a healthy sleeping routine. What's been most effective for me has changed over time - sometimes meditation does the trick, while other periods have necessitated the use of more magnesium and other physical inducements to sleep. I've put together several full-length articles on these subjects to give you ideas on how to improve your rest. May they aid you in your journey to sleep well.


Image: nomao saekiJohn Towner

Affiliate Disclosure: There may be affiliate links on this page which help to pay for Tiny Pet Memories. If you make a purchase through a link I provide, thank you because it may allow me to earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. I am not paid to promote specific products. Any opinions I express are strictly my own.

Health Disclaimer: I’m passionate about wellbeing and health but I’m not a medical professional, nor am I a licensed therapist. Any content you read on this site is intended for inspiration and for information only – by not means am I providing medical advice. Please consult your certified professional for personalized recommendations on the mental health or physical health ideas I write about.