Losing a pet can be as traumatic as losing a family member, and for many of us, this is because our pets are our family members in every way. They provide companionship, acceptance, and unconditional love. In fact, many people say their relationship with their pet is the closest and most intimate one they have. Because of this, they may find the loss profound, and deeply upsetting.
Everyone deals with loss differently, but this does not mean they feel less pain. Mourning and grieving a pet is just the same as it is when you lose a friend or family member, unfortunately, it is not often recognized as so, and many people who do not have a pet, may not understand, and even question your feelings.
Ways To Grieve
Acknowledge your grief
Give yourself permission to mourn and express your grief in ways that feel right for you. This may include taking some down time and allowing for some space for yourself and your feelings.
Talk to a grief counselor
Some vets around the country now have a grief counselor on staff.
Join a support group
There are some great support groups out there, some in person and some online, depending on your location. If you are looking for some online support, check out AKC Pet Loss Support Group on Facebook.
Commemorate your dog
Hold a memorial with friends and family. People are allowed to write obituaries for their loved ones, but sadly, newspapers will not allow pet obituaries. This does not mean you cannot write about your pet and share your thoughts and pictures with people.
Plant a tree or a shrub in their honor, or have a pet portrait painted from your favorite picture of your dog.
Create a memory book
Record stories and adventures of happy and memorable times you shared together. Write about the quirky behaviors that made your dog so unique and special. By taking the time to reflect upon your relationship, you are not only helping yourself through the grieving process, but you are also preserving important information and memories that you can look back on in the future.
Adopt a pet
When the time is right for you, consider adopting a new cat or dog from your local shelter. For some people, taking a little time is helpful, but for many, channeling your emotions and love into helping another dog or cat is extremely cathartic.
Saving another animal in need is the most beautiful way to honor your pet, and there is no doubt that taking the time to care for them can help take your mind off your loss. You can never replace the one you have lost, but opening your heart to another animal in need can help make the pain a little more bearable.
When a Friend Loses a Pet
If someone close to you has lost a dog, there are some things you can do to help them grieve.
What to say
Some people wonder what to say to someone whose dog has died, and the answer is, you should say the same things you would say if a person has passed away. It’s important that you do not diminish their feelings of grief, simply because the loss is not that of a human.
Be supportive, present, and compassionate, and listen if they feel like talking. This simple action will show your friend you validate their feelings, and you are there for them.
Send a sympathy card
There are whole sections of cards dedicated to pet loss, and sending a sympathy card is a very good way to let someone know you care, and you are thinking of them.
How to Help a Dog Grieve Another Dog
When a pet passes away, it can be very difficult for an existing pet. Even animals within the same household who are not closely bonded can express grief over a death. Like people, dogs show their grief in different ways. They may exhibit loss of appetite, lethargy, decreased interest in activities they previously enjoyed, or they may act out behaviorally. During this period of time, your remaining dog may be overly needy and want to be near you. They may also spend lots of time in the deceased dog’s bed or favorite spots.
Be more active
Take more walks and try to engage your dog in lots of play and activities, both indoors and out. Being physically active increases serotonin levels in dogs and in people and this can have a positive impact on behavior.
Many dogs, when they are feeling depressed, will lose interest in food and exhibit signs of decreased appetite. During this time, be aware of your dog’s caloric intake and if you feel they are beginning to lose weight, introduce a variety of different foods to help encourage them to eat. Keep in mind, you want your dog to eat, but at the same time, you do not want to create a picky eater.
You can also add a high calorie supplement that not only provides the necessary nutrition needed to maintain a healthy weight, but also acts as an appetite stimulant. If your dog was a healthy, normal eater prior to the loss of their companion, they should return to their normal habits given a little time.
Give them lots of attention
Pile on the love and affection so your dog knows how special they are to you. The time spent together during this difficult period will not only strengthen your bond, but it will help you both through the healing process.
“The bond with a dog
is as lasting
as the ties of this earth can ever be.”