Losing a pet is hard, there’s simply no way around it.
Your relationship with your favorite little fur-ball? It’s special and unique and probably unlike anything you have ever experienced.
Because at the end of each day, it’s your very own dog who is greeting you with a smile. Plus, your pet will listen to your ramblings, join you while you exercise, howl along as you sing, and love you to the core. They are a patient companion always ready to join in some fun.
For these reasons, it’s likely your dog has become your very best friend and no matter how hard you try, you are never fully prepared for the loss of a well-loved dog.
Instead, the sorrow is intense right to your core.
If you have experienced the loss of a pet, it’s important to take grief seriously.
Regardless of how others respond, you should never feel embarrassed or ashamed for grieving a loss.
Once you are willing to physically grieve, you begin actively mourning. From there, you can launch into your journey towards eventual healing.
Wherever you are on your journey with grief, if you have recently lost a well-loved pet or you want to prepare for the loss of a pet, this article is for you.
We’ll be talking about if it’s really okay to grieve for a pet, as well as how to move on after losing a pet. You will discover various stages common in grieving, and you’ll even land on a collection of comforting, pet-related quotes. We will share helpful resources and you’ll discover communities ready to share in your journey of grief.
We’re glad you are here. Let’s get started.
Is it Okay to Grieve for a Pet?
If you stumble into someone who has never lost a pet, it’s likely they won’t understand your experience with grief.
Well-meaning folks may say something to the extent of, “It’s just a dog. Get over it.” Or, “You can always find another puppy.”
Yet when it’s your pet who has moved on, it’s completely normal to feel devastated, shocked, and even lonely.
You didn’t just lose a pet. You lost a friend, a companion, someone you loved.
Because of this, your grief deserves your care and attention.
Don’t rush past what you are feeling in this season of loss.
It’s painful. It hurts. And that’s okay.
It is totally normal for grief to span from just a few months to a full year or longer.
So don’t try to quickly recover and snap into a new normal. If you ignore grief today, it will only become much worse down the road.
Give yourself time and space to grieve. Yes, it’s totally okay to grieve the loss of a pet.
How Do You Get Over Losing a Pet?
Like it or not, it doesn’t happen overnight. There are no prescribed patterns or neat and tidy stages to grief.
It’s messy. It hurts. It takes time.
There are, however, steps you can start taking today to get you on your journey towards healing.
Laurel Lagoni, a pioneer in grief support programs targeting pet owners, advises people to acknowledge the pain, talk, take your time, and memorialize. Let’s take a closer look at what this means.
Acknowledge the Pain
Give some grace and allow yourself to feel. It’s no lie that loss and pain hurt.
Sure, we’d much prefer to sidestep pain. Don’t.
If you ignore pain today, it will only grow worse in the future.
Refuse to deny or push away grief.
Instead, pause a moment and let yourself feel the emotions of what you are walking through today.
Talk about your pet.
Talk about memories you have together.
Find a person who cares and tell them about the trips you did with your pet.
Reminisce with others who knew your pet.
Take Your Time
Everybody’s experience with grief is unique.
Your journey will be different than the next Jo down the street.
So go ahead, and go at your own pace.
There’s no hurry. Go however slow you need to.
“No one else can tell you when it’s time to move on or get over it,” says Frank J Sileo, Ph.D. a licensed New Jersey psychologist who worked with clients experiencing the loss of a pet.
“The grief process can’t be forced or hurried along. There is no set timetable for grieving.”
In addition, you may experience grief to come in waves.
Your emotions may be triggered suddenly by a particular memory, your pet’s birthday, or simply hearing your dog’s name.
Take time to meaningfully honor your pet.
Whether that’s creating a special memory garden, planting a tree, or donating to a favorite animal charity.
You could also make a plaque with an engraving of your dog’s photo and name.
Or choose cremation and preserve the ashes in a beautiful urn.
(Not sure where to find the perfect urn? Check out Memorial Gallary Pets to get started.)
Additional options for memorializing your dog include placing them in a dog cemetery, creating a symbolic gravestone in their honor, or simply placing photos of them throughout your home.
You might even create a special space in your home to simply remember them. Place photos around, keep their collar and display the urn all in a single space to remember your loyal dog friend.
Get Your Feelings on Paper
It may feel a bit old-fashioned at first or perhaps it’s already how you process your thoughts.
Either way, go ahead and get your feelings out on paper.
Grab a simple notepad or elaborate journal of sorts, whichever you prefer, and start writing.
Jot down memories you have together with your pet.
Reminisce about places you’ve been to together.
Make a list of your dog’s favorite toys and treats.
Write down what made your dog special to you.
Alternatively, you could create a scrapbook with your favorite pet photos. Or grab some glue and create a photo collage.
Another way to get your feelings on paper is through letter writing. Imagine writing a letter to your pet and reminisce all the way back to day one when you first met your dog.
That’s right. Ask questions and look for answers.
Sometimes the answers may be easy, other times they may be tucked away and hard to find.
Either way, asking questions is an important step throughout the grieving journey.
Access Your Resources
Don’t grieve alone.
Instead, look around for helpful resources.
Get access to hotlines and support groups.
It may take work on your part, however, connect with others who have also lost a pet. A social support group can go a long way in helping you along to recovery.
If you are unsure where to start in finding a support group, ask the nearby animal hospital or your local veterinarian for trusted recommendations.
Additionally, connect with these following resources:
- Rainbows Bridge: a virtual memorial home that offers a grief support community. You can access tributes, forums, on-line chat rooms, e-sympathy pet cards, memorial stones, and more all from their site.
- Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB): APBL offers internet chat rooms, support after the loss of a pet, as well as support to better prepare people for future losses.
If you prefer to connect immediately with a hot-line, start here:
- For folks inside the U.S. call the ASPCA Pet Loss Hotline at 877.474.3310.
- For folks in the U.K. call the Pet Bereavement Support Service at 0800.096.6606.
- For folks calling from Canada, visit Pacific Animal Therapy Society’s Grief Resources.
The happy, the sad, and all the in-between.
Don’t push away memories shared with your well-loved pet.
Write your pet a tribute or look through old photos as you enjoy sweet memories made together with your pet.
Help Your Children
If you have children that were close to your pet, it’s likely you’ll need to help them process grief too.
Like yourself, give them time to process and feel the pain.
Talk with your children about the sadness they feel, and then do something physical to remember your pet together.
You might paint a picture together, release a balloon in your pet’s memory, or make a list of memories together.
Don’t rush this point.
Only when you feel ready, then start giving back by volunteering at your local animal shelter.
For some folks, it feels hard to even look at another animal. Others find healing in loving on lonely animals.
So don’t push yourself.
You’ll know when you are ready to start giving back.
Get a New Pet
No, one pet will never replace another.
However, pets can help people go through hard times.
For this reason, many people find it helpful along their grieving journey to find a new pet and start making new memories.
Maybe that is now or several years down the road. Journeys are different and the right timing varies for everyone.
The first step may just be to browse current puppies for sale and see if a new puppy or pet feels right.
Whether you’ve lost a pet in California or Ohio or somewhere in between, grieving is tough.
So take your time and do what feels right to you.
15 Quotes About Losing a Pet
Whether you are looking to comfort a friend or are needing comfort yourself, these quotes are for you.
- “The misery of keeping a dog is his dying so soon. But, to be sure, if he lived for fifty years and then died, what would become of me?” – Sir Walter Scott
- “There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.” – Aeschylus
- “I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?” – Sir Walter Scott
- “I guess you don’t really own a dog, you rent them, and you have to be thankful that you had a long lease.” – Joe Garagiola
- “A new dog never replaces an old dog, it merely expands the heart. If you have loved many dogs your heart is very big.” – Erica Jong
- “Dogs leave pawprints on our hearts.” – Author Unknown
- “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” – Washing Irving
- “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” – Khalil Gibran
- “What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” – Helen Keller
- “To call him a dog hardly seems to do him justice, though inasmuch as he had four legs, a tail, and barked, I admit he was, to all outward appearances. But to those who knew him well, he was a perfect gentleman.” – Hermione Gingold
- “The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” – Hilary Stanton Zunin
- “The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.” – M.K. Clinton
- “Dogs die. But dogs live, too. Right up until they die, they live. They live brave, beautiful lives. They protect their families. And love us. And make our lives a little brighter. And they don’t waste time being afraid of tomorrow.” – Dan Gemeinhart
- “The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.” – Ben Hur Lampman
- “Someday the memories of those last days will fade and you’ll think about your dog as he was in happy times, in all his butt-wiggling, people-loving, face-licking, squirrel-chasing, mischief-making glory.” – Author Unknown
Final Thoughts On Losing A Pet
Grieving the loss of a pet will look different for different people.
No two people’s journey is the same.
You may feel misunderstood by friends and family. Know that they don’t intend to be thoughtless. It’s just likely that most will not understand the connection you experienced with your dog.
Plus, your grief could hinge on a variety of factors.
Perhaps it’s your pet’s personality, the circumstances surrounding your pet’s death, or the kind of relationship you shared with your pet.
Each of these factors can influence people differently.
So take your time. Go slow. And know that grief has no timeline.
When you’re ready to move on and start giving back, you’ll know.
P.S. We would love to hear a favorite memory you have with your pet. When you’re ready, go ahead and share it in the comments below.
As the Editor in Chief, Anna Lengacher helps dog lovers learn the ropes of finding, raising, and caring for their dogs so they can enjoy many happy memories together.