How to Cope With the Loss of a Dog (5 Tips)

Losing a dog can be agonizing, as dogs are often viewed, not just as pets, but as part of the family. Dogs provide emotional and physical support. Therefore, when they are gone, it may feel as though you have lost someone extremely close to you.

Grief is a hard emotion to process and overcome. Many people grieve in different ways; however, some engage in healthier ways than others, while a few even try to ignore the emotion altogether.

Though trying to suppress or using unhealthy ways to manage your grief can only make matters worse. To help you manage this emotion, we have come up with a beneficial guide that you can use to handle the loss of your dog.

The Importance of Support

When grieving, it is essential that you surround yourself with people that exhibit understanding and support. Many people may criticize or disregard your grief by saying, “It is just a dog”.

However, just because they do not understand your sorrow does not mean they have the right to decide what you should and should not grieve over.

If you surround yourself with people like this, this could lead to feelings of shamefulness and embarrassment, which will hinder you from processing your grief properly.

Hence, try to embrace the feelings of empathy that you may get from family and friends while blocking out criticism and negativity.

Gaining Support Elsewhere

Not everyone will have friends and family that display support and empathy. So, if your support system is not very strong, do not worry because you still will not have to go through this alone.

There are a plethora of different dog-loss programs and hotlines out there that will be willing to listen and help you cope with your loss. The experience may be uncomfortable at first, but just try to keep an open mind and remember that you are not alone.

Nonetheless, if you are having trouble deciding on the right support system for you, we have provided you with a few options.

  • Lap of Love: (855) 955-5683
  • ASPCA: (877) GRIEF- 10
  • Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement Chat Room

If these resources are not helpful to you, try contacting your local veterinarian and see if they provide support groups or know of any support groups in your area.

The Sad Truth About Denial

It is common that when it comes to handling grief, many people believe that denying the existence of the circumstance will make the pain disappear.

However, this will do the exact opposite, as not acknowledging your sadness will prohibit you from ever moving on and possibly getting another dog.

The key to escaping the trap of denial is acceptance. You must first accept that your dog has passed to be ready to move on. Now, this is easier said than done, as the overall pain of your loss can be overwhelming, but just know that this is the first step to getting better.

Methods of Acceptance

There are many different ways that you can utilize to accept the passing of your dog. It is crucial that you choose what you are comfortable with and what you believe will work best for you.

1. Having a Memorial

Many owners, who are experiencing the loss of their dog, often hold a memorial to remind themselves of the happy times they did have with their pet.

Having a memorial can get rather emotional, so make sure you surround yourself with supportive family and friends that you can depend on in case things get too overwhelming.

2. Joining a Support Group

As mentioned previously, joining a support group provides you with the support that you may not be receiving from family and friends.

Additionally, joining a support group also supplies you with an avenue to express your feelings while being around others who can empathize. Being able to express yourself is extremely beneficial when it comes to accepting your grief.

3. Practicing Journaling

If you are not comfortable expressing your emotions around others, then journaling is an alternative you can use to let out and accept your feelings of grief. When you are  journaling, you should not hold back, as having pent-up emotions can make you feel uneasy, and it will only be worse in the long run.

4. Crying Is Okay 

You should never feel ashamed to cry during the grieving process. It is your right to cry as you have lost something that was very special to you. Crying should be embraced as it can help relieve your emotional despair.

It is common for others to associate crying with weakness. However, there is nothing weak about using a healthy way to relieve and cope with your grief.

Although, if you don’t cry during this process do not be ashamed either. This does not mean you loved your dog any less, it just means that you handle grief differently, which is okay too.

5. Grief Has No Time Limit

It is important to know that while grieving for your dog, that grief has no time limit. You should not force yourself to get over their death because you should be “over it by now”.

It is essential that you take your time and work through and cope with your feelings of sadness, and not rush in an attempt to feel better. Grieving could take days for some people and years for others, so just go at your own pace.

Although it is just as important to allow yourself to move on. Do not restrict yourself to the past it is okay to grieve, but when your body lets you know it is time to move on you should not ignore it and stay confined to memories of the past.

6. Handling Death With a Child

Handling the death of your dog can be hard enough on your own, but when you have a child who was just as emotionally attached, things can start to get difficult.

Losing a dog could be a child’s first experience of grief, so it is important that you provide substantial support, while being able to explain what exactly is going on. Explaining death to a child can be a hard task, so we have decided to give you a few tips to help you along this process.

Do not Beat Around the Bush

When explaining what happened to your child, be concise and straightforward. Pondering around the topic will not lessen the blow, but instead, make your child even more confused.

Have Patience

Your child will likely have some questions, so it is important that you are there for them and try to help them understand the best you can.

Encourage Feelings

You should encourage your child to talk about how they are feeling so they do not have pent-up emotions. You can even talk about your feelings, this might help your child feel more comfortable talking about theirs.

Remembrance

Remembering and looking back over all the good memories of your dog is a part of healing and can help evoke positive emotions within your child. Thus, you should not avoid mentioning your dog, but instead, try to talk about them, and encourage your child to do so as well.

Handling Death With Other Pets

Contrary to what others may think, pets do experience grief when a companion of theirs passes, even if they were not close. Similar to humans, pets mourn in different ways so they may not show openly that they are grieving.

However, it is still important that you provide substantial support to them as well. Supporting your pet can provide comfort and healing to you as well, as you both can find reassurance within each other.

Though it is also crucial to keep in mind that you should not be too quick to add another dog to the household. This would be unfair to your other pets and your new dog as well, especially if you have not fully healed.

When Can I Get Another Dog?

Once you feel that you, as well as others living in the same household, have fully healed then you can start to think about getting another dog.

Yet, if you feel that you are not ready to move on, then that is okay too. Do not feel pressured by others to quickly replace your previous dog as it will “help you move on”, because it will only make things worse.

If you have not made peace with the death of your older dog, then this will lead you to push unwanted expectations onto your new puppy. Therefore, always do what you are comfortable with, and do not feel the need to rush and replace your past dog.

Wrap Up

The main takeaway from this article was to show the importance of properly grieving after the loss of a dog.

Hopefully, this article also exemplified the essentiality of having patience with yourself as well as others, and also the necessity of having a firm support system that you can rely on.

If you are comfortable, please feel free to share your story of how you have overcome the loss of a dog or any other pet. Also, please share this article with others to bring awareness to this often neglected topic.