Pets can be our best friends. They are with us through many life moments, from the difficult to the joyous. We spend a great deal of time bonding with our beloved companions. After the loss of a pet, the process of grieving may be difficult. Sometimes the death of a dog can be as painful as losing a family member or friend. Although time is often the greatest healer, there are additional ways to find support and strength through this time.
1. Find connection with others.
Research online boards, social media-based forums, and pet loss support groups. Sometimes family and friends may not be sympathetic to your grief. Because the experience of death and feeling of loss is universal, there is always someone to talk to. Many people have also experienced this type of loss, and are open to speaking with you. It is important to find a support system.
2. Don’t censor your feelings.
Do not allow others to censor how you feel. Your grief is valid. Allowing yourself to experience it is important to the healing process. There is no ‘right time’ to move on. Allow feelings to move through you, avoiding self-judgment as they pass. Remind yourself that feeling angry or sad is okay. Give yourself permission to cry. It’s also okay to feel okay following the death of a pet. Quick closure does not indicate a lack of care or bond with your companion.
3. Build a legacy.
Creating a tangible, long-lasting legacy in honor of your lost pet can be a way to celebrate their life. Planting a tree or flowers, building a scrapbook with photos, creating a piece of art, or writing a letter to your pet can help with pain and offer a way to move forward.
4. Healing through ritual.
Holding a memorial for your departed pet can be a good way to find closure. Expressing your pain around those you trust, sharing joyful memories of your companion, and feeling surrounded by a supportive community can be helpful. Ignore those who diminish your desire to hold a funeral. Honor your needs and the legacy of your pet if it feels right to do so.
5. Practice self-care.
Losing a pet can be stressful — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Practicing self-care is important during this time. Engage in activities that bring you joy, whether that’s going to dinner with friends, seeing a movie, hiking, playing music, or taking a bath. Surround yourself with people who can support you. Take care of your physical needs through eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising.
6. Create normalcy for surviving pets.
Animals can also experience pain after the loss of a pet, and their behavior may be affected as a result. As empathetic beings, surviving pets may become distressed by grief. Try to maintain their daily routines. Increasing the amount and frequency of playful exercise can uplift their mood. Additionally, it may help you in the grieving process.
7. Seek professional support.
If the pain of loss becomes too difficult to handle and begins to affect your well-being, you can reach out for help. Mental health professionals are available to listen and offer support.
Coping with the loss of a pet takes time and is a gradual process. You may need time for healing before finding a new dog. Remind yourself that you will never be able to replace your lost friend, but can one day give love to a new pet when you feel the time is right.