The grief surrounding the death of a dog can be truly traumatic for obvious reasons. People view their pets as loyal companions, siblings, children or best friends.
So the passing of a dog or puppy, whether by old age or unnatural causes or illnesses or worse, euthanizing, can be a profound and heartbreaking experience. While you simply cannot make that pain disappear, here are a few tips that could help you when you are grieving the loss of your dog.
Crying when you feel like it, offers intense relief. Yet, most people refrain from doing so. Indeed, crying is seen as a sign of weakness or vulnerability. We’re trained to feel ashamed of the tears. However, holding back your tears only results in bottling all these feelings up.
The immense pain you feel after the death of your dog or puppy warrants a release of intense emotions. It is a point in your life that you can never be prepared for, no matter how old or sick your dog gets. You simply cannot put your dog’s death into perspective and be prepared for it.
Scientific studies have shown that emotional tears contain stress hormones that get released when you cry. So the numbness, tightness and absolute hollowness that you feel inside your head can actually ebb a little if you let yourself cry.
2. Go Through the Five Stages of Grief
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and then finally acceptance. This is also known as the Kübler-Ross model.
Denial – this is the first stage, where you simply refuse to acknowledge the fact that your beloved dog has passed. You hold on to any photo or toy or memory to still live as if your dog or puppy was still around. You refuse to even consider their death yet.
Anger – you can’t deny any longer, so you turn to anger. It is normal to feel resentment at this point. If you find yourself wondering, ‘why my dog?’ – you’ve come to stage 2. At times, this anger can be directed to people such as your vet, your family, and rarely, at closely related people such as children or partner.
Bargaining –You will reason with yourself that your dog had to go. It was time. And yet, you won’t be able to accept it. You may also guilt-trip yourself with ‘if I had not this, that wouldn’t have happened’. It is a period in which you wish you could rewrite history.
Depression – you don’t want to go home because your dog isn’t there anymore. You don’t like looking at the ball or walking in the park, because it hurts too much. You begin to question life. At this specific stage, you know your dog is gone, and it hurts so much. It’s normal and it can last for months.
Acceptance – this is when it dawns on you that things are going to be okay. That life will move on, even without your dog. Although there will always be some pain, you’ve now learned to live with it. You are not a monster if you, so to speak, move on from mourning the loss of your dog.
Don’t expect yourself to jump to stage 4 or 5 immediately. Allow yourself time to slowly pass each stage, one at a time. Every pet parent is unique and has different ways of expressing each of these stages. Mourning the death of a puppy or dog is a very unique experience to each owner. There is no one way to mourn – and do not believe anybody who says otherwise!
3. Remember Your Dog
Don’t try to hide or get rid of your dog’s memories in the hope of finding closure sooner. Instead, keep them and always remember your dog (try using a keepsake). Contrary to what people believe, stashing your dog’s memories someplace you can’t see them every day, will only add to the pent-up sadness inside. This means you will be stuck in stage 1 of grief – denial – until you confront your feelings.
Then, if looking at your dog’s toys or pictures makes you cry, then weep if you must. In fact, you will be much more at peace knowing that you have preserved your dog’s items. Keep them living in your stories about them.
Talk about the death of your dog when you feel like it. Find friends who understand. Join a group of dog aficionados. Make sure people you associate with empathize with your situation.
However, understand that some people just don’t have the time or energy to be there for you. Furthermore, these people are not necessarily monsters. They have a life of their own to take care of.
4. Do Not Replace Your Dog Immediately
Don’t attempt to fill the void by adopting another dog or puppy. A lot of people get a dog immediately after their dog’s demise before they are done grieving fully. This not only affects the person but is also unfair to the newly adopted puppy. They are burdened with the responsibility of matching up to years of companionship, in a matter of months.
More often than not, pet parents return these adopted pets to a local shelter because they suddenly realize that their dead pet cannot be replaced. And, those who don’t return these pets, end up comparing them to their previous pets. Eventually, they are unable to give these dogs the love they truly deserve.
Generally, it would be ideal to let a few months pass before you can consider getting a new dog. Sometimes, waiting for a couple of years is best. While everybody is unique, most experts recommend adopting a puppy of a different breed to your passed dog. By adopting the same breed, you would make another attempt at replacing your lost dog. And, as we discussed above, it is a bad way of respecting your passed dog. If you are a breed fancier or breeder, you would obviously stick to the breed you love the most!
5. Organize a Change of Scenery
Take a trip! Travel to someplace either alone or with family and friends. Losing a pet is a big blow and you need some time off to recover from ao much mourning and grieving. Surround yourself with people who wish you well and places that will help you gather your thoughts once more.
Understand that it is okay to not be alright and take your time to recuperate from the demise of your dog. And if on the trip, you find yourself feeling sad or pained, then take some more time off. Let the grief pass before you jump into something else. Losing a pet dog is like an injury – you have to let the wound heal before you can do anything else. So don’t be afraid to take some time off, sit on terraces, indulge with tasty desserts, and so on.
6. Be There For Your Family Members
The demise of a pet is hard on a lot of people including your siblings, parents, spouse, children and even neighbors. Make sure you are there for them. Try to cheer them up and help them all pass through the stages of grief. In very harsh words, do not be selfish going through this ordeal. This isn’t a loss just to you; it affects the people around you too. If you have children, make sure your focus on them too.
Pets are wonderful creatures because they bring people closer and make families fuller. Even after they die, they somehow manage to encourage families to come together. Sometimes, making others feel better can ease your pain too.
7. Help Your Other Pets Too
In a multi-pet household, the death of one pet can trigger various kinds of reactions in the other pets at home. The entire animal kingdom understands and expresses grief in different ways. Surviving pets may display distressed cries, keep wandering around the home looking for the deceased pet or even run away from home. In these times, surviving dogs will only look to you for support and help. You have to be their pillar and get them through this.
If you have more than one pet, they are all your responsibilities. While you must be hurting within, you have to make sure that you pay equal attention to their discomforts also. Sail through this turbulence together.
8. Everyone Grieves Differently
You must accept that everyone grieves differently and what works for someone else might not work for you. While it is okay to talk to friends and well-wishers, it is also important to draw the line sometimes when it comes to suggestions and well-meaning words.
If someone got through the death of a pet unscathed, someone else may have taken a long break to unwind before bouncing back to normalcy. That doesn’t necessarily have to work for you.
Often times, you need to discover what helps you through trial and error. Whether it’s a vacation or thrusting yourself into work or talking about it or being quiet about it. Do what makes you comfortable and stop comparing your grief with someone else’s. The same goes for the time taken to bounce back – you do not have to feel bad about returning to normal life quicker than someone else. It doesn’t mean you love your pet any lesser. It just means you are better at handling pain than others.
9. Stay Busy
The one tip, that helps every kind of grief, is to stay busy. Focus on working longer, do household chores and if you have kids or other pets, play with them outdoors. Keep your mind occupied with activities – not to stop yourself from thinking about your pet dog – but to avoid clogging your brain up with dark thoughts. However, being busy should not be synonymous with living in utter denial.
An empty mind that wanders into the past at every chance it gets has negative effects on you. You find yourself being weighed down by thoughts of ‘what ifs’. Even being pulled down into believing that euthanizing wasn’t the right option and maybe you could have saved your dog.
To save yourself from falling into this dark abyss of self-blame and depression, you must keep yourself busy. This will also help you to have healthy and happy memories of your passed pet.
10. Speak To a Professional
You will surprise how many pet parents seek medical help to treat their depression, post the death of their pets. It is common to see a professional and get help to swim through these trying times. Don’t feel ashamed about how you feel, because only you know how much your dog meant to you. And while others may be able to sympathize with your loss, only you can fully comprehend what you have lost.
A good reason to get professional help is that prescription medicines may be required in some extreme cases. While some professionals rely on therapies to heal the griever. Breathing and meditative exercises are also recommended under expert supervision to help a pet parent fully recover.
Whether it was old age, a miscarriage, or an illness that took your pet’s life away or whether it was something as traumatic as euthanasia. Your dog is always going to be a part of your remaining life, as you journey on until you meet them on the rainbow bridge.