How To Cope With Losing a Dog

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chewie2

How to cope with losing a dog.

Feeling sad and grieving over the loss of an animal companion is normal, so don’t let anyone make you feel like it isn’t.

As much as we would like to avoid experiencing the heartbreak, the truth is – we can’t feel better if we don’t allow ourselves to first feel bad.

However, feeling bad does not mean sinking into a dark place that you can’t get out of.

Finding healthy ways to cope will allow you the opportunity to grieve, to accept what has happened, learn to treasure the time you had and recover. Notice I never said forget.

I hope some of these ideas give you comfort

The number one suggestion I have is to not let anyone tell you how you should feel. That goes double if it’s coming from someone who doesn’t share their life with animals, or has never experienced this kind of loss. No matter how much, or how little time, you had with your pet, you created a strong bond, and you’ll grieve as you would the loss of any other member of the family.

Honour your grief. Express your grief. Don’t deny it, don’t repress it. If that means screaming, throwing things (make them soft objects, and don’t aim at anybody please!!!!), or lying in bed in the dark, then do it. Just notice how long this is going on. Do it while it’s helpful, but don’t let it become self destructive.

Surround yourself with people who understand. There are many pet loss support groups, chat rooms, hotlines and counsellors you could reach out to. Talk to others and contribute as well. You never know who your words will console.

Start your own pet loss support group. It may be therapeutic for you, knowing you’re honouring your pet in such a significant way, while helping others at the same time.

Keep a journal where you can record your thoughts, feelings and memories. Share it, or keep it just for yourself.

You had a routine, and now it’s changed. It’s normal to feel a bit out of sorts for a while. Now might be a good time to start a new hobby, try a new activity. It will help fill that void, and create a new outlet for you.

Remember the good times. At the beginning you almost feel like they’re still around. For quite a while after one of my dogs died, I would look down the hallway and swear I could see him looking in each room for my husband. That does fade, but the memories don’t, and you’ll eventually be able to laugh at all the crazy antics they got up to.

Sometimes it helps to create a memorial. One woman I know keeps her dogs’ urns and collars on a little side table. It’s not a depressing shrine, but a nice tasteful way to remember them, and make them feel like they’re still part of the family. Have a plaque made up for your garden, plant a tree, make a scrapbook. Your memorial is whatever you want it to be.

Having a funeral is a way for you and your family to openly express their grief. It’s a way for humans to express grief, and honour those that passed, what’s the difference if this loved one had 4 legs instead of 2? Never mind what people say, and walk away from anyone that utters a snide remark. Pet cemeteries exist, so people must be using them.

Go to the beach and watch the waves, go for a hike, do something peaceful and contemplative.

You know that death and taxes are two things that are inevitable, right? It’s hard to say, and hard to accept, but we will all die – some sooner than later. It’s good to remind ourselves that life is short, and we should live and love to the fullest.

It’s too easy to feel alone during this time, which of course will only make you sadder. So much has been written on this subject, why not get some books and read about other peoples’ experiences? It’s always helpful to know others have been through similar.

The human-animal bond has no strings attached. No games, no nonsense, just unconditional love. That doesn’t sound like something we experience too often in our human relationships, does it? No wonder the loss is so devastating. Honour what you had, treasure it, and when you’re ready, find another furry friend to bond with.

The passing of a beloved pet is emotionally and physically draining. It’s not unusual to find it hard to sleep, and hard to eat. Making yourself sick is not going to do you any good. You’re not expected to have peaceful sleeps and be ready for 6 course meals, but you have to take care of yourself. If you haven’t read this before – exercise releases endorphins, which will help boost your spirits.

It may be difficult to talk about your pet right away, or even say their name. You may find it helpful to share stories and memories, with others in your household. After all, they have also been affected.

Your pet was a member of your family. And as with the loss of any family member, you’ll grieve. Since when do family members have to have 2 arms and 2 legs?

You may not realise this, but your other pets may be experiencing the loss of their mate. Keep an eye out for changes in behaviour, eating… Try and stick to the same routine they’ve been used to, and giving them some extra TLC is a good thing. Having other animals to care for will also be good for you.

After experiencing the loss of a pet, many people say they are not prepared to live through that again. It’s easy to say when emotions are raw, so don’t even go there. The opposite is true as well. Some may run out too quickly, as there’s the tendency to try and “replace” the one that’s gone, and that’s not a reason to adopt. Give yourself some time, and when you’re starting to feel more like yourself, consider bringing a homeless animal into your life. You still have a lot more love to give, and offering a home to an abandoned animal is a wonderful thing to do, not to mention how great it is for the soul.

How to cope with losing a dog – conclusion

I know it can feel impossible sometimes, trying to figure out how to cope with losing a dog, but I truly hope you find comfort here.

 

How To Cope With Losing a Dog
Hindy Pearson
Helping people care for their senior dogs
I am a certified dog trainer and pet care consultant, specialising in working with rescue dogs and first time pet parents. I foster and adopt senior and special needs dogs, and advocate for shelter adoption of all animals, particularly older dogs and cats. I am currently working on a spay/neuter program in Spain.

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