Losing a furry friend is a hard pill to swallow.
It’s 1 of the most heartbreaking things a dog parent will ever go through.
Although this is unavoidable …
There are things you can do to manage your grief.
And help you get back on track.
Continue reading to learn:
- 17 proven ways to cope when your dog dies.
- 5 common emotions you might feel after the loss.
- If having a new Fido can help with grief and the right time to do it.
- And many more…
Table of contents
- What to do when your dog dies? 17 things to help you get through
- #1: Feel your emotions
- #2: Give yourself time
- #3: Hold a memorial service
- #4: Vent to someone you trust
- #5: Convey grief through art
- #6: Make a scrapbook
- #7: Wear keepsake jewelry
- #8: Join a pet loss support group
- #9: Call a pet loss hotline
- #10: Read comforting books
- #11: Try yoga
- #12: Volunteer at a shelter
- #13: Consider talking to an expert
- #14: Take it slow
- #15: Don’t neglect self-care
- #16: Check on your other pets too
- #17: Bring a new fur baby (only when you’re ready)
What to do when your dog dies? 17 things to help you get through
#1: Feel your emotions
Saying goodbye to your beloved pooch isn’t easy.
It’ll be painful. Not to mention, you’ll feel unbearable sadness and emptiness each passing day.
That, my friend, is grief.
It’s a natural response to loss, so you can’t avoid it.
And the more you put it on the shelf…
The longer you’ll delay the healing process.
Therefore, feel and understand your emotions.
“How does this help?”
Experts say accepting your loss and feelings is the 1st step in grieving.
By mourning, you’ll release all the energy bound for your departed dog.
And you’ll get a new sense of peace – not pain.
So, you have all the right to be sad because someone you love died.
Cry or scream if you want to.
And it’s OK to laugh and find little moments of joy too.
Just don’t allow others to dictate your feelings.
But never tell yourself how to feel, either.
Note: Besides pain and extreme sorrow, you may also experience:
These emotions are valid and common.
However, if you’re feeling guilty…
I’m sure that your Fido lived a good life.
You did everything you could at that moment. And I know they love you so much.
So don’t be too hard on yourself. 🙂
#2: Give yourself time
A team of researchers studied how long people usually recover from losing a pet.
Out of 174 bereaved fur parents, 85.7% had at least 1 sign of grief.
Say intense sorrow or lack of interest in other things.
After 6 months, this was reduced to 35.1%.
Then 22.4% after 1 year.
Thus, some people already got better within 12 months.
Meanwhile, others took a longer time healing.
So, be extra patient with yourself.
Grieving takes a while. And each person needs a different time frame.
#3: Hold a memorial service
Dr. Shear, a psychiatrist, says that honoring a deceased loved one can help you accept the loss.
It’s the next step in the healing process.
And you can do this in many ways.
1 of these is holding a memorial for your departed dog.
What to do?
You can make this a private or public ceremony.
Invite your close friends and family. Or even neighbors who often interacted with your furry pal.
Display your dog’s urn or photos. As well as their favorite snacks or toys.
Then as each of you shares pictures or stories about your dog…
You’ll realize you’re not the only person in the room who misses your pooch.
And that your Fido’s loved by many.
This can also help reduce your guilt (if you have any). As you’ll be reassured that your dog lived a happy life.
Note: If you have children, involve them in the preparation. Ask them to write messages for your departed Fido. As this can help them process their grief as well.
#4: Vent to someone you trust
After accepting your emotions…
Letting them out (in a healthy manner) can also help you get through your loss.
Experts say hiding them requires even more energy.
And it’ll hinder your ability to cope.
Now, if you ask me…
“How will I do it?”
People have different ways of expressing their grief.
So, do whatever’s comfortable for you.
Since everything may feel overwhelming…
Some bereaved fur parents prefer talking to someone they trust. Say a close friend or family member.
Doing so will help you release pent-up feelings you’ve been hiding all this time.
Thus, it can relieve your stress. As well as your overwhelming emotions.
What to do?
Try to stay connected with your loved ones and accept their help.
However, sometimes, this is easier said than done.
Based on a study, some people who lost their pets avoid venting their emotions.
This happens when they feel unsafe opening up to anyone. Or when everyone around them invalidates their feelings.
Say if a friend says,
“It’s just a dog.”
“You’ll get over it fast.”
It’s called ‘disenfranchised grief.‘ Or when you lack support while you’re having a hard time.
Which then makes the healing process longer.
So, if you aren’t comfortable opening up to someone you know…
#5: Convey grief through art
Not everyone mourns the same.
Also, each of us finds comfort in different ways.
So besides venting to someone…
You can also express your emotions creatively, like:
- Writing in a journal.
- Creating a poem/letter for your dog.
Other people write a book for their departed pooch as well.
This may include stories or realizations after the loss. Which can also bring comfort to others.
Note: You might also like visiting museums or going to music events. Also, you may ask an artist to paint your beloved Fido.
#6: Make a scrapbook
You may have captured many photos of your dog while they’re still alive.
Now, if you’re emotionally ready to look at them…
Check your camera or phone’s gallery.
And then have all of them printed. Or gather the ones that you already have in hardcopy.
Then, create a special scrapbook of your Fido’s memories.
For some people, this could be difficult to do. Especially during the first few days.
But you’ll get to reminisce about your memories with your pooch.
You’ll feel closer to them too. Which can give you comfort during the hard days.
Also, this will keep you busy.
Plus, you’ll have something to look at if you suddenly miss them.
But aside from a physical picture book…
You may also create an online memorial
On websites like ILovedMyPet.com, you can post photos or videos of your beloved Fido online.
You may also add text. And share your feelings or story with other dog parents around the world.
After creating 1, your pooch’s page will be up for 3 months.
This basic plan’s free.
But if you want to add more space (for videos) or maintain the page longer…
You must pay depending on the size and length of time you like to avail.
#7: Wear keepsake jewelry
For some people, having an object that reminds them of their loved one also helps.
In this case, since it’s a symbol of your precious dog…
You’d feel their presence wherever you go.
It’ll make you think that they’re always beside you.
And that you’re not alone.
So it might help lessen your sorrow.
What to do?
Search for a crafts shop or an Etsy seller that creates keepsakes of pets.
A necklace or bracelet’s perfect as they’re small and handy.
But you can also try other pieces of memorabilia (e.g., key rings).
Usually, the seller will ask you for the ashes or fur of your departed Fido.
Then they’ll include them in the keepsake.
Trivia: Did you know that memorial pieces of jewelry date back to the Middle Ages? Experts say people wore an emblem to remind them of someone’s death. Say, skulls or crossbones.
#8: Join a pet loss support group
As said earlier…
It’s important to surround yourself with people who can understand you.
Preferably ones who also have pets or have been in the same situation.
As negative energy from unsupportive people won’t help you recover.
So, if you’re ready to talk but can’t trust anyone around you…
Remember, there are still people who can listen to you without judgment.
What to do?
Look for any dog or pet loss support groups.
It could be an online community or 1 that offers virtual programs.
But there are also local organizations that have in-person gatherings.
To help you decide, I gathered a few groups you might consider::
|Pet loss support groups||Services|
|PAWS Chicago||Virtual meetings|
|Seattle Animal Shelter||Virtual sessions|
|Michigan State University Veterinary Medical Center||Virtual meetings|
|Rainbow Bridge||Forum, chat room|
|Dove Lewis||Virtual and in-person meetings|
|UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine||90-minute meetings (in-person)|
|Lap of Love*||6-week course, 50-minute sessions (virtual)|
|The Anti-Cruelty Society||Virtual program (‘Working Through Pet Loss’)|
|*Requires a fee. Depends on the type of service length of the course.|
Note: You may ask your vet or fellow dog lovers about this. Then choose whichever works best for you.
#9: Call a pet loss hotline
If you’re uncomfortable in gatherings and virtual meetings…
You might opt for a private one-on-one session instead.
For this, there are many hotlines you can reach to share your feelings.
Usually, the volunteers here are veterinary students. And they’re trained by professional counselors.
Also, most of them experienced the same thing.
So they’ll understand what you’re going through.
Now, if you’re ready and want to give this a try…
Here are some popular hotlines for bereaved fur parents:
|Pet loss hotline||Phone number||Availability|
|Blue Cross||800-096-6606||Daily (8:30 AM – 8:30 PM)|
|Tufts University*||508-839-7966||Mondays – Thursdays (6 PM – 9 PM)|
|Cornell University||607-218-7457||Mondays – Fridays (6 PM – 9 PM)|
Saturdays – Sundays (12 PM – 9 PM)
|Chicago Veterinary Medical Association||630-325-1600||(They’ll call you back after receiving your message.)|
|*24/7 voicemail available.|
Note: These services are free. Typically, they’re also confidential from a landline.
#10: Read comforting books
Writing your thoughts after losing a Fido can help with grief.
For this reason, you’ll also find many pet loss books.
These may help you explore your emotions.
And find the right words for what you’re feeling at the moment.
Plus, guide you through the healing process.
What to do?
Find helpful resources on the Internet. Or at a library near you.
But to save you some time…
I listed a few popular pet loss books that you might like:
|“Bill at Rainbow Bridge“||Carrison, D.||2011|
|“Cold Noses At The Pearly Gates: A Book of Hope for Those Who Have Lost a Pet”||Kurz, G.||2008|
|“Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life With Dogs”||Ascher-Walsh, R.||2013|
|“Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet”||Kowalski, G.||2012|
|“Heart Dog: Surviving the Loss of Your Canine Soul Mate”||Hawn, R.||2015|
|“Signs From Pets In The Afterlife: Identifying Messages From Pets In Heaven”||Ragan, L.||2015|
|“The Art of Racing in the Rain”||Stein, G.||2018|
|“The Pet Loss Companion: Healing Advice from Family Therapists Who Lead Pet Loss Groups”||Dolan-Del Vecchio, K.||2013|
|“When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering, and Healing”||Wolfelt, A.D.||2004|
Reading tip: Is My Dog In Heaven Waiting For Me? 11 Signs & 3 Stories
#11: Try yoga
This is a great activity for your mind and body.
It involves concentration and deep breathing.
Which research found effective in relieving stress.
Plus, it also helps reduce signs of:
- Chronic pain.
Mourning’s physically challenging.
Thus, yoga can aid in easing tension and muscle aches due to grief.
And it’ll also help you in exploring your emotions.
You can do this at home.
Just lay a mat in a quiet room of your house. Then follow a yoga routine.
If you’ll be trying this for the 1st time…
Check out the yoga video below for beginners:
#12: Volunteer at a shelter
Although it might be hard…
Try looking for a new outlet that’ll keep you occupied.
And find something that’ll bring joy into your life.
Also, you have so much love to give now.
And there are plenty of Fidos or animals in shelters that need care.
So if you’re ready to see or be around other dogs…
Volunteering for a rescue group’s a great idea to find a new purpose. And spend your extra time.
What to do?
Look for dog or animal shelters near your area.
- Do research on your options.
- Contact them. Visit their website or shelter in person.
- See how they work, their setup, and the current condition of the animals in there.
- Talk to people with experience in rescue groups.
- Apply if the job and schedule fit you.
Fun fact: Studies show that interacting with animals benefits humans. And vice versa. It’s linked to lower:
- Heart rate.
- Blood pressure.
- Cortisol (stress hormone).
#13: Consider talking to an expert
Sometimes, this type of heartache doesn’t get any better, no matter what you do.
It’s called ‘complicated grief,’ as per experts.
And this is the case if it’s still hard for you to accept the loss.
For this, it’s best to get counseling.
A professional can guide you with your emotions.
Also, they’ll help you manage your grief.
#14: Take it slow
“Haste makes waste.”
Studies show that making decisions in a hurry often leads to mistakes.
This could also happen if you’re not in the right mind. Or if you’re forcing yourself to heal from pain fast.
So, as much as possible, avoid these things immediately:
- Having a major change.
- Taking on new, big responsibilities.
- Making huge decisions (e.g., switching jobs, moving).
Remember, it’s alright to lay low in the meantime.
Don’t rush things. And focus on your well-being first.
#15: Don’t neglect self-care
Having a furry friend provides structure to your day. As well as a sense of purpose.
You get fulfillment in taking care of your dog.
Also, you have a daily routine you do with them. Say feeding and walking.
So, without you knowing…
They keep you fit and healthy too.
Research shows that people who have dogs tend to be more active than those who don’t.
They’re more motivated to walk.
Plus, they’re also willing to do physical activities.
Thus, losing your furry pal might also mean less exercise for you.
Also, with all those overwhelming emotions…
You may find it hard to get enough sleep every night. And motivate yourself to move around.
So, I’m here to remind you never to forget about yourself.
What to do?
- Eat healthy.
- Exercise regularly.
- Try out old or new hobbies.
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep daily.
- Avoid habits like smoking or drinking too much alcohol.
Furthermore, experts say exercising boosts ‘endorphins.’
These are ‘happy hormones.’
And they make your body and mind feel good.
Which helps with your well-being and healing.
#16: Check on your other pets too
Do you have other fur babies at home?
If so, check on them as well.
It’s known that animals can get attached to each other.
And a study on dogs proves this.
According to it, our furry friends also mourn when their companion Fidos die.
Which shows they can indeed form true, deep relationships.
Also, the same research says that dogs are in tune with the family’s feelings.
So if you have other Fidos, you can affect each other’s emotions.
And this may or may not help with your healing process.
“How will I know if a dog’s grieving?”
When mourning, the parents of the Fidos in the study observed these signs:
- Higher anxiety (35%).
- Reduced appetite (32%).
- Increased inactivity (46%).
- Reduced playfulness (57%).
- Increased vocalization (30%).
- Longer sleeping hours (35%).
- Increased attention-seeking behaviors (67%).
These are similar to the symptoms of depression in dogs.
So during these tough times…
Ensure that you still give attention to your other pets.
They need your care and lovin’ now more than ever.
You might also want to know: Do Dogs Go To Heaven? What Does The Bible Say?
#17: Bring a new fur baby (only when you’re ready)
Every Fido’s different.
So a new dog can’t easily replace the pooch you lost.
However, they may also help you feel less lonely.
And bring new happiness into your life. Especially if you’re alone.
This might be good, too, if you have another Fido at home who may feel gloomy.
But as I mentioned, you must give yourself time to grieve first.
As well as your family or partner (if you live with them).
Give it a few weeks or even years before you adopt 1.
Only consider this once you’ve healed enough. As having a Fido’s a big responsibility.
Also, you may project your negative feelings onto your new dog. Or compare them to your old pooch.