Skip to main content

Surviving the Loss of a Pet: Tips to Get Through the Grief

Your animal has died and you are distraught. You have never felt such deep and prolonged loss and are afraid to share this with others who will minimize and perhaps dismiss your pain as misplaced or trivial. Wrong. All of us who have shared life with (not "owned") animals have entered and emerged from this unavoidable black hole, and we'll likely revisit it as long as we live with animals whose life spans do not equal ours in measure. What can you do with this grief?

1. Give yourself permission to grieve, and give your self permission to grieve hard. Experience it. Embrace it, even. It's real and it's potent. Avoiding grief, burying it, masking it, will guarantee its future re-emergence as a larger and more devastating threat to your well being.

2. Remember. Remember the joy and mischief, the silly songs and the serious training, the intimacy and the frustration, the quiet support and cuddles your dog gave you when he sensed you needed them most.

3. Talk about your memories, especially with other dog people who understand and with those who knew your dog. Invite them to share their memories as well.

4. Make the memories visual. Place photographs of your dog or cat around the house so you connect with him or her consiously at ever turn. Our animals want us to remember them this way. Keep in mind that in their consciousness, they have not left us. They have simply changed form. They're still with us. We need to focus on the reality that their energy continues.

5. Create a memorial, a photo collage, an altar, a scrapbook chronicling your dog's life.

6. Avoid people who do not understand your grief, who tell you, "It was just a cat (or dog or bird). You can always buy another one. " As my grandmother would have said, "Feh!"

7. Do something to connect with your animal in spirit through dreams, where our spiritual selves roam unencumbered by bodies. Before falling asleep, you can look at photographs of your dog or cat or meditate briefly on your relationship. SEE yourselves together. Hold this as your last mental image as you shut the light.

8. Carry an object with your animal's energy: a photo, a toy, even a "baby" tooth. It will comfort you and connect you to your animal in spirit in a very psychic way. When I lost my soul mate dog, Seamus, I slept with his collar inside my pillowcase for months.

9. Create a memorial service. I've seen quite a few of these and have written some for clients.
Invite friends and family -- even other dogs -- to your home or to a park or favorite outdoor place where you can share stories, read a poem or prayer, and give this loss the sacred dimension it deserves. Honor your animal's soul. It is just as Divine as your own.

10. Create. If you paint, paint your dog's portrait. If you write, write a story or memoir. Sew. Quilt. Dance.

11. READ about other people's animals for entertainment, to return you to the joy you shared rather than the grief that sems to impale you. Look for stories about antics and misadventures. Please -- read James Thurber! You'll relate and and laugh from the belly doing it.

12 . Consider getting another dog or cat, not to replace the one who has died but to HONOR him . The one thing dogs enjoy most is other dogs. They are pack animals and having loved you as their pack leader, they don't want to see you alone. The want you to cherish their memory and grieve without losing yourself to that grief. They do not want you to suffer but to recover. Welcoming another animal, whether it is a puppy/kitten from a breeder or an older rescue, is your chance to shower a new friend with the calibre of love with gave your old friend. Consider the circularity of life and love: the multiple blessings your animal gave to you will continue as you bless the new one in your life with your love. Bringing in a new pet by no means eclipses the relationship you had with your animal. In fact, it does just the opposite; it strengthens it.

When my first schnauzer, Kasha, died, I was reluctant to consider another one until a secretary in my department gave me this essay to read. When I finished it, I found a breeder in St. Petersburg, FL and excitedly readied my home for the entry of a new pup in HONOR of the one I'd just released to spirit. This essay will certainly help you, too. It's Eugene O'Neill (actually, it was written by Eugene O'Neill's dog), The Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O'Neill:


Pam N said…
Great ideas all. I did something to help me over the loss of my beloved Lab, Monet. I sat down at the computer and just started writing bullet points: Things I never want to forget about Monet. I actually added to it over many days as memories came to me. We have another wonderful dog now. My husband said to me the other day... I am getting some of their antics confused and I am afraid I might be forgetting Monet. Out comes the paper I wrote; what a blessing to have had this.

Keep up the blogging Lisa... love reading you.
Lisa Shaw said…
Great ideas, Pam!!!!!
(It could be the start of a great book -- and with your artistic skills-- need I say more?)
Anonymous said…
Well it is possible to send unconditional wish to any just
one while meditating. secondly it is possible to heal
yourself or any else with the help of meditation.
Again you have to go for you to inner serenity. Feel all your internal entire body from check out feet is enlightened.

Send this kind of enlightenment fot it portion regarding body that requires recovery.
you may well send it with a one in addition who want it.
Do that daily for a fixed time period. Hope
superior result will probably be there. This is fine only should
you have succeeded to realize inner peace and need to convert that to unconditional appreciate.
Also see my website > binaural sounds
Frances said…
Acceptance might be hard for some who suffer from pet loss grief but then again, there'll be a time when they'll finally acknowledge that fact and move on, just like you did.
Jessica Meyers said…
Find a special way to say goodbye to your pet. Write a letter, a poem, or a special tribute. Pick a meaningful way to memorialize your pet by making a scrapbook, planting a tree, or doing charitable works in order to divert your attention away from your pet loss grief.

Popular posts from this blog

Living with an Old Dog: Every Moment a Blessing

This morning I thought my old girl, Ingrid, had died, and I was stunned as I tried to lift her head and leg and they just fell, heavy, onto the bed. I didn't even see her breathing. It felt as if there was no life in her body at all. I surrounded her with my body, thinking she was gone, calling her name.....and then she moved. :-'(. I thought, "this is the way I want you to leave," peacefully, without drama. Maybe she was practicing. I cried much of the morning. But she's still here....a blessing.

She turned 14 last week and quietly enjoyed a small birthday party attended by her two housemate dogs and three other dog friends.  She was subdued but enjoyed enough birthday treats to the point of vomiting them up onto the couch at midnight.  
She can no longer climb into the bed and anxiously paced back and forth along the foot board until I lifted all 50 pounds of her and she curled up and slept till morning.  On occasion I would awaken in the middle of the night to f…

Ingrid the Ghost Comes Back to Visit

I would like to show you where I used to live. I don’t live anymore in the sense of physical life as you understand it but I live in another dimension that gives me some flexibility of movement. From here I can gently re-enter the earth plane, almost like a whisper, tugging at my mom until she is still enough to sense me. 
I share this not for her but for all of you who seemed to know so much about me from my mom’s words and pictures. I read the good words you wrote when I left and was touched because I was not a famous dog or a winner or a champion of any sort, just a deeply loved girl who had the luck to land in the right home. I want to show you the best parts of my life, which means where I lived because my home was my life. Take a look around the room - the living room, the kitchen, the family room –all those flaws you see in the walls and ceiling are really welcoming caves where my spirit has settled. I’m in every crack in the wall, every fold of fabric, every scratch on the fu…

God's Covenant with Animals in the Old Testament

What is our human responsibility to the earth and its non-human inhabitants? Traditional Biblical scholars would say one of master-servant and ecologists would say one of caretaker. However, using either frame, neither movement has responded in full view of the evidence presented throughout the Bible that God clearly included animals in covenantal relationships with Biblical scholars neglecting the sanctity of animals and secular environmentalists neglecting God. A closer look at the Old Testament reveals that God designed humankind’s role in relation to the animals as one of stewardship rather than domination. Traditionally religious people often cite Scripure justify a master/servant relationship between humans and animals rather than one of partnership, but deeper investigation invites us to see texts rich with references, both literal and figurative, to the partnership between humankind and the animal world. From Genesis through Prophets and Wisdom Literature, the writers of the O…