How to Get Over the Loss of a Dog? My dad always says there are only two things for certain in this world: death and taxes. Death is one of those things that haunts the living, interrupting lives and causing mass turmoil everywhere it touches. It scars you, even if you try not to let it.
The passing of a loved one is especially hard to cope with. And from recent studies, it has become clear that it no longer has to be a human that has passed that will cause us to grieve.
What do you do when it’s your beloved pet, who was as much a member of the family as you are? Keep reading to find out how to get over the loss of a dog.
When I was younger and didn’t have a dog, I couldn’t understand how someone could be so distraught over the death of a pet. To me, it was just an animal. Nothing to get worked up over. But as I grew older, I realized that our pets are an important part of our lives.
Tips For How To Get Over The Loss of a Dog
Dogs can be our best friends, even our children. In fact, in a recent study conducted by Kelton Research of 1,000 people, 81% of the group said their dogs are true members of the family, equal in status to their children. And “58 percent of American dog owners are comfortable calling themselves nicknames such as “Mommy” and “Daddy” when referencing their dogs ” (1)
That’s why the loss of your pet can be emotionally devastating. There’s not much information out there on how to get over the loss of a dog or how to grieve. But what I did find shows that the grief you’ll experience with the passing of your pet is different than if it was a human loved one. You’ll have to process different emotions.
While everyone’s grieving process is different, there are some things that apply to everyone and help cope with the loss. Like letting yourself grief. Take your time mourning or holding a memorial service.
7 Steps To Help You Cope After The Death of a Dog
1. Talk Through it
Don’t be scared to mention your pet, even if it means you’ll burst into sobs. Those that love you will comfort you through your grieving process. If you are hesitant to let a family member be your shoulder to cry on, consider joining a support group. There is a fantastic support community for those who are dealing with the death of a pet called Rainbow Bridge. I’ll go into depth on them in just a bit.
2. Address Feelings of Guilt.
One of the difficult things about the death of a pet is that often times, it’s due to euthanasia, which the painless killing of an animal to end their suffering.
When we have to make the decision to end our pet’s life, it can cause feelings of guilt. We can’t help feeling like we are murdering our best friend.
But this is the wrong way to look at it.
You’re showing your animal companion mercy, which is something we, as humans, often don’t get when we’re sick, even if we beg for it. You are allowing them to go with dignity rather than making them suffer and pass away naturally in intense pain, just to selfishly have more time with them.
3. Consider a Ceremony.
It’s common for many people to have a mock funeral for their pet during the euthanasia. This allows the family to get closer and to be there for their pet until the end, much like we call-in the family and gather around the death bed when a relative gets to the point of no return. If you don’t think you could handle being present for the euthanasia, you could hold a memorial service before, or after. Whenever feels right for you.
4. If You Have Children, Help Them Cope.
Children are often more sensitive to death than adults, as they have less control over their emotions. Answer any questions they have. Let them talk about their feelings. Express your feelings. They need to understand they’re not alone. Give them something to occupy their minds and hands. Find a way for them to honor your pet’s memory like paint a picture, release a balloon into the sky, or paint a rock to put in the flowerbed with your pet’s name on it.
5. Mourn at Your Own Pace.
The grieving process is different for every person. Don’t feel like you have to get back to normal within a certain amount of time. No one can tell you how to mourn the loss of your pet. You have to work through the emotions: anger, sadness, loneliness, confusion, and guilt.
6. Don’t Have Unanswered Questions.
If you have questions surrounding how your pet died, seek out the assistance of a veterinarian. Do research online. Find the answers you need so you can get closure. Don’t ignore them or push them to the back of your mind.
This will not help you complete your grieving so you can move on with your life. You need peace of mind when it comes to death in order to finally accept it. That’s why having a loved one murdered or kidnapped is so hard. There are so many unanswered questions.
7. Find a Way to Honor Your Pet’s Memory.
A great way to help provide closure upon your pet’s passing is to honor their memory in some way. We often do this for our human companions. How many roads do you know that are named after people who’ve died? Why shouldn’t our pets get the same treatment. Consider planting a tree in your dog’s honor or placing a small statue in the yard, perhaps in your pet’s favorite spot. Or you could donate to a charity in your pet’s name. Some people even place their deceased pets into a pet cemetery or have them cremated and kept in urns in their homes. Find something that fits you.
Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
Don’t be surprised if you have a difficult time getting back to normal after the death of a pet. For thousands of years, dogs have been man’s best friend. Now, they’ve become true members of the family. It’s natural to have trouble adjusting to your regular routine, when your pet played such a huge role in it. Research has shown that the loss of a pet can significantly impact our everyday lives than the loss of friends or other family members.
This is because pets fill multiple roles in our lives. They’re our companions, our best friends, our support system, our protectors, our children. There are plenty of people out there that only have fur babies as children. For these individuals, losing their beloved pet is the equivalent of your child passing away. It’s important to take care of yourself as you grieve.
Don’t close yourself off. Make sure you have face to face interactions with family, friends, and society. Even if you break down twenty times, keep at it.
Being alone can increase depression. Your mental health is in a fragile state when you’re in mourning and you have to be proactive to keep from crossing the line from grieving to depression.
Eat a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep and exercise. Exercise helps release endorphins, which are natural mood boosters.
Moving On Is Hard But You Can Do It
The longer you share your life with your animal companion, the harder it will be to rebound from their passing. This is normal. Studies have shown that interruptions to our daily routine or lifestyle can have negative impacts on our stress levels. As a pet owner, you have settled into a routine that is now full of gaping holes of free time. What are you supposed to do during your normal one hour bike ride to the park? You can’t bear the idea of going without your best friend.
It’s important to find ways to fill these gaps. When you’re busy, your mind doesn’t have as much time to focus on negative thoughts. Spend time volunteering at an animal shelter or rescue society. Consider being a foster parent so dogs don’t have to go to the shelter while they’re waiting for adoption. Get back into a hobby that you gave up due to time restrictions. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s something that will keep you engaged and fill your time.
You’ll realize as the days go by that it does get a bit easier. Soon, you’re able to talk about your favorite memories with little more than a few stray tears and some happy laughter. Support groups are a great resource for people who need the understanding of like minded individuals. The number one resource for pet owners dealing with the death of a pet is the Rainbow Bridge. This is a virtual PetLoss Grief Support Community that provides a variety of services.
In this community, you can create a pet memorial, which you can then send to friends or post on your social media. You can also send a gift certificate to someone whose pet has passed away. They hold a candle ceremony on Mondays if you’d like to join and honor your animal companion. They welcome all types of pet owners. They also have support groups and a shop where you can purchase personalized jewelry, memorial stones, and more. If you need help to cope after the death of a pet, give this website a try.
My Forever Pet Grieving Poem
There’s something missing in my home,
I feel it day and night,
I know it will take time and strength
before things feel quite right.
But just for now, I need to mourn,
My heart — it needs to mend.
Though some may say, “It’s just a pet,”
I know I’ve lost a friend.
You’ve brought such laughter to my home,
and richness to my days.
A constant friend through joy or loss
with gentle, loving ways.
Companion, friend, and confidante,
A friend I won’t forget.
You’ll live forever in my heart,
My sweet, forever pet.
— Susanne Taylor
Kassidy Shepperd is the editor in chief for Canine-Prime.com. She is is a dog lover/trainer, a freelance writer and a volunteer at many pet rescue and shelter centers. Kassidy is based in Colorado and regularly writes for dog related magazines and blogs.