When a beloved dog dies, the pain can be immeasurable. For many people, dogs aren’t just animals; they’re seen as best friends or family members. Therefore, it’s natural to feel lost or empty when they’re no longer there.
Not everyone will understand what you’re going through. It can be especially difficult for people who’ve never had a pet to identify with your grief.
Fortunately, you don’t have to navigate the grieving process on your own, there is always support you can benefit from. Here are some strategies that may help you better cope with the loss of your beloved friend.
Accept That It’s Okay to Grieve a Pet
Contrary to what many people believe, it’s not “just a dog”. You may have confided in your canine pal, celebrated their birthdays, or gone through various phases of your life with them by your side.
Your feelings are valid and real, regardless of what anyone else thinks. It’s okay to grieve; accepting this is the first stage in coping with your loss.
Understand That the Grieving Process is Unique to Each Person
No two people will experience grief in the same way. Some people will grieve for years while others may grieve for a few days or weeks. However, many pet parents initially go into denial after their dogs pass.
This is a coping mechanism that helps to protect them until they can process the loss. Some people try to bargain with God, themselves, or their pet, while others feel anger at themselves, their veterinarian, or another individual. Guilt is also a common emotion.
You may go through all these stages one after the other, at the same time, or not at all. What will undoubtedly happen is that you will feel sad and you may become withdrawn or depressed. However, over time, that sadness will decline as you accept that your pet is gone.
Join a Support Group
Connecting with other people who are going through a similar experience can help you to understand that the way you’re feeling is normal.
If there are no in-person pet loss support groups near you or you’d rather not attend them, there are still many other ways to get comfort and/or advice.
There are online groups and support hotlines and if necessary, you can also see a therapist for private sessions.
Look Into Custom Pet Urns for Dogs if You Chose Cremation
If you opt for cremation, pet urns for dogs allow you to keep a part of your dog with you forever.
Personalized pet urns for dogs can be designed in a wide range of sizes and styles that match your pet’s personality or your personal preferences.
You can choose from a wide range of materials and variations depending on whether you want to scatter the ashes, hold onto them, or split them up among multiple family members.
Erect a Headstone or Get Creative with Your Memorial
If you choose to bury your dog, you can mark its final resting place with a tree, flowers, or a headstone. Other options include commissioning a portrait of your pet, creating a shadow box with their favorite blanket or toy, or starting a scrapbook with photographs of them.
Hold a Memorial Service
Many people choose to hold a memorial service. This can follow either burial or cremation and it is an excellent way to say goodbye especially if there are children involved. You don’t need to be religious to mark your dog’s passing in this way.
Create A Tradition in Your Beloved Pet’s Honor
Many pet owners do something special in their pet’s name on the animal’s birthday or another meaningful date.
They may make donations to a shelter or volunteer with an animal charity. Some people opt to remember and honor their dog on August 28 – Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day.
Assist Children Who May Also Be Grieving
For many children, the first time they experience death is when they lose a pet. They may blame themselves for the animal’s death or think the veterinarian didn’t do enough.
Children may also become afraid that they’ll lose other pets or people in their lives. Adults often try to soften the blow by keeping a brave face and saying the animal ran away.
However, this could backfire. It’s best to let the child know that the dog isn’t coming back. Let them know that you’re also sad and help them to work through their feelings in an age-appropriate way.
Lend Support to Older People in the Family
Seniors can also have a hard time coping with the death of a dog.
In some cases, the pet was a trusted companion while other members of the household were at work or school.
Losing the dog can remind them of people they lost in their lifetime or the fact that they will eventually pass away.
It’s important that you help older members of the family maintain their sense of purpose even in the face of great loss.
Ensure they get lots of social interaction and professional counseling if needed.
They may also enjoy volunteering with an animal charity if they’re physically able to do so.
Give Your Surviving Pets A Little Extra Attention
Pets also grieve, especially if they had a close relationship with the dog who died. They may lose their appetite or become withdrawn.
Even if they weren’t particularly close to the other animal, they may pick up on your emotions and become distressed.
Following your normal routine as much as possible and giving them some extra attention will likely help you both.
Don’t Rush Into Getting Another Pet
Some people are eager to welcome another pet into their hearts and homes right away while others need some time.
Regardless of where you fall on this continuum, you need to remember that no other animal will truly replace the pet you lost.
It may be best to give yourself some time to grieve before you adopt another animal. You’ll know when you’re ready.
Give Yourself Some Grace
Losing a pet is hard and you need to be gentle with yourself as you go through the grieving process. Even though your dog is no longer with you, you can draw on others for support.
You can also look into pet-urns-for-dogs or other custom memorials, and develop a tradition in your pet’s name. In time, you’ll become better able to handle your loss.