Losing a beloved pet can be extremely painful. While there’s no right or wrong way to grieve, there are healthy ways to cope with your loss. The process is very similar to losing a family member, some say. The shock, the denial, the intense loneliness and emptiness. The anger, the sadness, and after a long process, finally we arrive at acceptance. Acceptance is not saying that you are ok with the loss. It is instead an arrival at a place of peace, where you can celebrate and remember your pet with fondness and love.
I lost my two girls last year, 8 weeks apart. It seems like yesterday and then sometimes it seems like it’s been forever. Ironically, it has been exactly one year today. Dorie was my first cocker spaniel. So, because of that, she holds a special forever place in my heart. Following, are some ideas to think about as you work through this challenging process.
1) Take time to heal. The process is different for each person.
2) Gather a support system. There are others like you that would like to share the special bond you shared with your pup.
3) Don’t let others minimize the pain you are feeling. Some do not understand the hole that losing a pup-kid leaves in our lives.
4) It’s ok to take in another dog to honor your lost loved one. Some feel guilty, but there are special dogs out there that need our loving care.
5) If you are having difficulty moving forward, consider reaching out to friends, or even mental health professionals. As a therapist, I address grief issues with bereaved parents. Many counselors do the same for pet-parents.
6) Maintain a normal schedule in your home. It is important for pup-siblings, as well as for children in your home experiencing the loss along with you, to continue your normal activities.
7) Celebrate the gift of your lost pet by honoring their life in a memorable way. Some make a memory box containing the favorite things belonging to your pet. Others designate a corner of their garden as a place to read. I found a beautiful statue of a Cocker Spaniel and put it by a fountain in my back yard.
Please feel free to share your own healthy ideas for healing after the loss of your own beloved pet. Know that many of us are fellow travelers on this difficult journey with you!
Dedicated to Molly and Dorie Shelton, Forever in my heart!