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Losing a beloved pet can be emotionally devastating. Your pet is a part of your family and it’s never easy saying goodbye that last time. If you are someone who has recently lost a canine companion, the editors and staff here at CanineJournal.com offer you our most sincere condolences. We understand the pain you are feeling right now and know that this is not easy to handle. We also feel that sometimes it’s best for people to discuss their pet after losing them as a way to begin to recover. We welcome you to leave memories of your dog in our dedicated Pet Loss Support community topic.
In this article, we will offer some strategies and insights to help you work through the mourning process.
The Grief Process
Everyone deals with grief in different ways. Denial, anger, and guilt are all strong initial reactions that preclude the inevitable sadness that comes when the shock is gone. These reactions are often taken out on those closest to the one experiencing the loss, and act almost as a means of protection for that person until they are able to face the truth. The process, as a whole, may look like the following:
- Denial and/or anger
- Sadness and/or grief
Dealing With your Grief
While grief is a very individual and personal thing, there comes a time for us all when it’s best to stop feeling the loss and to actively choose to move past it. The right time for you, will not necessarily be the same as someone else; depending on how long it takes you to move through denial and get to acceptance, it could take weeks or it could take years for you to become ready to deal with your grief. When you are ready, however, you don’t have to face it alone.
Facing Death Together
Aside from willing family and/or friends, there are entire communities of people who feel just like you and want to connect. Types of support include:
- Pet-bereavement counseling
- Pet-loss support hotlines
- Online and/or local pet-loss support groups and forums
If sitting down for a one-on-one with an actual counselor, or even getting up the nerve to attend a local support group proves too much at this point in your process, Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary medicine offers a toll-free, Pet Loss Support Hotline for grieving parties. We have also recently set up a Pet Loss Support in our community that may prove helpful.
Personally Facing death
While outside support is an important tool for coping with your grief, there are some things that a support group can’t do for you… you have to do them for yourself. A few things that you can do on your own to help move past your grief include:
- Acknowledge your sadness, embrace it, and give yourself permission to feel and express this pain! It’s a vital part of the healing process.
- Write out your feelings. Whether it’s in a personal journal or an essay on Fido that you submit for publication, writing is extremely cathartic.
- Volunteer with a local animal shelter. While this may be best left for the later stages of grief, just like helping other people helps you forget your own problems, helping other animals will help you move past your loss.
- Prepare a memorial for your pet. The act of having a service, saying a few words, and laying your pup to rest will definitely help give you the closure you need.
Dealing with Reality
Beyond your grief lies reality: Whether you’re having to make the tough decision to euthanize your sick or aging pet, or if your pet is already gone and you’re having to deal with the memorial, and burial or cremation arrangements, the reality of these situations can come crashing down on you like a ton of bricks. This can leave you feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn. We’ll walk you through these separate scenarios so you can confidently cope with whatever comes your way throughout the process.
As your pet ages, or in the event that your otherwise healthy pup should become unexplainably ill or injured beyond recovery, it may be necessary to become emotionally prepared to euthanize your pet. From knowing when it’s time, how to say goodbye and what to expect next, our article on Dog Euthanasia will walk you through this difficult process so you don’t have to do it alone.
Whether your dog’s death was of natural causes, or you were forced to make that tough decision yourself to end his or her pain and suffering, once your dog has passed comes the matter of cremation or burial. Our article on dog cremation and burial offers information on the process of dealing with the remains, and options for memorializing your pet after death.
Remembering your Pet
Don’t forget: The best way to honor your pet, your four-legged family member, is to remember the good times you had together and to be grateful that you were given the valuable time you had. Gratefulness goes a long way in the healing process, and helps us remember that, despite the heartache when our sweet ones pass on, that it was worth it… and that one day, it will be worth it again.
Rainbow Bridge Can Comfort One Dealing with the Loss of A Pet
Whether you are dealing with the loss of a pet yourself or helping a loved one manage their pain, the Rainbow Bridge is always a nice story to share your sympathy in a very empathetic and caring way.