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Grieving the Death of a Pet

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bigstock-Portrait-Of-Family-Dog-Sitting-51026734After being with me for 15 wonderful years, my dog passed away at home last summer. It was peacefully natural and deeply, wordlessly heartbreaking.  After her death, time went on, with all the external demands of a busy life. For part of me, time stopped as I adjusted to the stark truth. She’s gone now. I will never touch her, hold her, or look into her bright eyes again. For the last few months, I have been carrying on at half speed in the world and grieving inside. At this point, I am far enough into the process to share some observations.

Consider these suggestions as you grieve the loss of your pet:

  • Honor the depth of your loss. Take it seriously. Don’t expect to jump right back into life as if nothing had happened. This was a member of your family. If someone advises you to get over it and get another pet because it was ‘just a pet, ‘understand that the person means well, but just does not understand the situation. Spend time with people who are willing to listen to you and understand the depth of your feelings.
  • Respect the grieving process. Know that you will pass through the basic stages of grief: denial and numbness, anger, sadness, and finally acceptance. Grief is a natural, necessary process.
  • Find your own way to work through your grief.  There is no set method or timeline that is right for everyone. Trust yourself and work through the feelings in ways that feel natural for you. Here’s what some people do: talk with friends and family, write in a journal, do physical activities such as running or walking, play sports, meditate, and of course, cry.  It’s good to cry. It helps you to heal.
  • Put your pet’s things away at your own pace. If it is comforting to keep a collar or leash in its usual place or to keep the toys or even the special bed in its place, do it!
  • Take care of yourself first.  Grieving takes energy.  You might feel slowed down physically or mentally. Set limits with people in your life if they pressure you to do more than you can at this time.  Be kind. Be firm.
  • As time goes on, you will start to feel better. You will enter the acceptance phase of the grieving process. Watch for the time when you spontaneously enjoy a memory of your lost pet and catch yourself smiling.  You’ll know you are well on your way.

If you want to talk about your grief, contact to schedule a session at 651.647.1001.