Losing a pet, especially a dog, often equates to losing a member of your family—you may feel the loss deeply, and can be heartbroken. Many times your pet has listened to you moan and groan, just looking at you with unconditional love shining from those trusting eyes. The pain you feel with their passing is real, and you may need to go through a grieving process of which everyone goes through differently. Many well-meaning friends urge you to “get another dog,” but the thing is, “another dog” is not the beloved companion you just lost—in fact, it is not even close.
What makes the bond between man and man’s best friend so close? Dogs, as well as some pets, have evolved to be more socially adept with humans in more modern times. According to Marvin Sussman, author of Pets and the Family, pets serve a positive purpose in families “such as a means for pleasure, fun, and exercise, as a source of physical security and protection.” It’s no wonder why losing this bond can be tremendously heartbreaking.
Dogs have been known to recognize individuals, as well as respond to human emotions. If you have lost your much-loved pet, here are some ways that could help you with your loss.
The Grieving Process
It can be difficult to express your grief at the passing of your four-legged companion. People around you may empathize with you, but often they just don’t understand the depth of your pain. If a person were to lose their child or spouse, there is plenty of support available, but often when it is your own pet, people are sympathetic … for a while. Society’s attitude towards pet loss is very different when compared to the loss of a close human being, according to Healthline. You may need to “move on quickly as you can because this is what others deem acceptable,” Power of Positivity states.
Stop Blaming Yourself
This can be difficult to do, especially if your pet ran out onto the road because you left the gate open. Realize that we all make those kinds of mistakes, but at the same time, you can’t live your life full of self recrimination. You need to forgive yourself and allow the healing to take place.
What Would Your Pet Want for You at This Time?
Try to imagine what your pet would want you to do. Your pet may want you to cherish the quality times you had together. You can frame those precious snaps you took of them, perhaps go to the favorite places you both visited, and rekindle the times you had together. You need to honor your pet.
Put Pen to Paper
We don’t seem to write much anymore thanks to the invention of computers, but putting your thoughts down in a journal can help with the healing process—together with a few sketches or poems and some artistic talent. It will also remind you of the special times you had together.
Seek Professional Help
If your efforts to cope are ineffective and you feel that you need additional help, it may be time to seek a professional—there are people who specialize in animal bereavement and loss, such as a doctor or mental health professional.
It’s important to remember that the feelings of loss are valid, especially when you lose a pet companion.
According to Dr. Ralph Ryback from Psychology Today, “Keeping the memories of your beloved companion alive can be the healthiest way to get through the grief.”