How to Cope With the Grief of Losing Your Dog
By Guest Author, Susan Wright, DVM
It’s a fact that dogs just don’t live as long as we do and if we are going to share our lives with these loving animals, we need to understand that we will have to cope with them passing away. Losing a dog is a major and painful event in anyone’s life, and it’s normal to feel sadness, confusion and even anger. It’s also common to feel guilty, especially if your dog was euthanized. There are ways of coping with grief, but ultimately only time can heal these emotional wounds. Unfortunately, society often doesn’t recognise losing a pet as worthy of “real” grief, so you may also have to deal with inconsiderate and unintentionally upsetting attitudes.
It’s hurtful and upsetting if a close friend or family member just doesn’t seem to understand your feelings. People who’ve never had a close bond with a pet – and sometimes even those who have – may make comments such as “it’s only a dog” and “why not just get another one”? These kinds of comments are usually well-intentioned, but can actually make you feel worse.
The best way to respond to comments such as these is to politely tell the person that you don’t want to be told that your pet was “just a dog”. Tell them that you loved your dog very much, and that it’s normal to experience grief at such a loss. Ask them to support you in more constructive ways, such as listening when you need to talk. It may be best to avoid these people until you start to feel better, or at least avoid the topic with them for a while. Fortunately, most people will understand your feelings and only want to help.
You may also feel guilty at the thought of owning a new pet, like you are betraying your deceased dog. It’s usually not a good idea to buy a new dog straight away. You may feel the need to buy a new dog in an attempt to fill the space in your home and heart left by your lost companion. This doesn’t always turn out well, because you may inadvertently compare your new dog with the one you’ve just lost, often while forgetting the problems your previous dog used to have. It’s unfair to judge a new dog by the standards of your old dog. It’s best to wait until you feel emotionally ready before you start to look for a new dog. Only buy a dog because you want a new and loving relationship – not as a replacement for a lost pet.
Take Care of Yourself
When you’re grieving it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. Make sure you continue to eat well, get enough sleep and try to get some exercise. It’s often easy to stop caring about other areas of your life, but this can make the grieving process last longer. Be aware that you may not be as attentive or have the same concentration levels as normal, and take this into account at work and when you are driving. These are issues that gradually go away over time, but it can sometimes take longer than you’d like or expect.
If you feel you’re not coping with your grief, seek professional help. Often a chat with a caring counsellor will help you to work through your sad feelings and open your heart to the possibility of a new four legged best friend.
Susan Wright is a veterinarian and freelance writer. Dr. Wright dedicates time and effort to educating dog owners on the proper care and treatment of their beloved pets. Susan shares advice on coping with loss during difficult times.
Here are two excellent books to help deal with the loss of a pet.
Please visit my web site at Pet Portraits by Deena and see the many portraits I have painted. Several of the pets have passed away, and their portraits are precious mementos for their owners. 10% of proceeds goes to support CorgiAid