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Minnesota Veterinary Hospital Blog

Coping With Pet Loss: Our Top Three Tips

2019-09-23

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”

– Vicki Harrison

Our pets are our best friends, our family, and our closest companions. The bonds we share with them are irreplaceable. In honor of all the pets we have loved and lost, we want to offer our deepest condolences and dedicate this article to ways you can honor and remember that part of your family that has reached pet heaven.

Losing a pet changes your life. Just as pets flood our lives with joy, companionship, and love, losing a pet can have the opposite effect in a short period of time. When a pet passes away, it’s traumatic. It can feel like you’ve lost a bit of yourself, and you really have. Pets reflect who we are. And while we can try to articulate the loss of a pet, words often fall short. But we would like to offer some tips on ways to cope and honor your lost pet.

 

Our Top Three Tips to Help Your Honor and Cope with the Loss of a Beloved Pet


1. Be Kind to Yourself While Staying Present and Aware

Many pet parents feel overwhelmed with guilt when a pet passes beyond. This is normal. Our pets depend on us for every meal, walks, litter changes, and to care for their health. But the loss of a pet isn’t your fault. Aging is natural. You provided your pet with the best life he could have. 

To focus on the reality of the situation, try journaling your feelings and writing down what led to the passing of your pet. This can help you sort out the events and creates a space to unload your guilt.

Try not to linger on the experience of the loss. Embrace looking toward the future while cherishing those memories of your pet.


If you find yourself wondering about the medical circumstances surrounding your pet’s death, you can always make an appointment to talk to us.

2. Talk About How You’re Feeling with Friends and Family

When a pet passes on, we often feel alone in our sadness, guilt, and pain. We feel that others may not relate to our experience, or that others do not care. Trust us when we say that people who care about you will listen.

Expressing how you’re feeling validates your emotions and can help you sort through the grief. Find a trusted friend or family member and talk over your feelings. It’s ok to feel angry. Feeling depressed is also natural. Talking about these can help you move past the emotional sticking points. 

While most people go through the steps of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, then acceptance, not everyone grieves in the same way. Sometimes these emotions occur in a different order. And other times, people skip an emotional state. 

Try to not deny yourself any feelings. This can lengthen the grief and deepen the depression and sadness of the loss. 

If you feel uncomfortable talking to friends and family, there are support hotlines and groups, including Lap of Love, that are complementary and available to all.

3. Create a Memorial and Have a Ceremony for Your Pet

Your pet will always occupy a special place in your heart and your memory. But you can also dedicate a space in your home or your yard to celebrate all the beautiful memories you shared with your pet. Creating a memorial space, and even holding a memory ceremony, can help you cope with the loss while continuing your relationship with your pet through their memory.

By dedicating a space to your beloved pet, you create an area where you can meditate on her memory. This space also reminds you of all the wonderful times you had together, rather than the emotional pain you may associate with the end of your pet’s life.

This can guide your children through the grieving process, as well. And provide the entire family with some closure while honoring your pet’s memory.

Some Pet memorials ideas include:

  • Planting a tree and making a memory plaque or stone for your pet
  • Planting a memory garden
  • Creating a memory candle or planter with your pet’s collar
  • Creating a shadow box with photos and other belongings that remind you of your best friend
     

Losing a Pet is Never Easy

If you need assistance explaining the loss of a pet to your children, try reading them a book then talking about their feelings with them. Share your feelings as well. It’s ok to cry with them.

Books for children about the loss of a pet

  • The Rainbow Bridge by Adrian Raeside
  • Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant
  • My Pet Memory Book by S. Wallace 
  • Fairy Dog Heaven by Patrese Fischer and Marcus Cutler
  • The Invisible String by Patrice Karst and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

Many people find reading books about loss to be quite healing. Some books for adults we recommend include

  • I Will See You in Heaven by Jack Wintz
  • Goodbye, Friend by Gary Kowalski
  • Losing My Best Friend by Jeannie Wycherley
     

Keep your pet’s memory alive and allow yourself to mourn.

Like Vicki Harrison suggests in the quote we opened this article with, grieving is more about coping than healing. Learning to doggie paddle in the waves of sadness and anger. But keep your head above water and talk to others and you’ll find yourself coping over time.

Image Credit: Aljindr / iStock/ Getty Images Plus