How to Handle the Loss of Your Dog

How to Handle the Loss of Your Dog

For some reason lately my daughter has been talking about how devastated she will be when our dog dies. It doesn’t make much sense because our 8 year old dog is perfectly healthy. However, as she was searching on Pinterest for dog related poems or stories she came across the “Dog’s Prayer.” Losing a dog can be devastating to a child and also to an adult. As many of you have reached out to each other on social media to figure out how to cope with the loss it became apparent that losing man’s best friend is a global difficulty not bound by age, race, sex or nationality. The loss of a pet is something most families will deal with at some point.

After the loss of my first chocolate Lab, Bogie, I declared never again to fall in love with a another dog. Have any of you ever made such statements? Of course, within months we purchased a yellow Lab who, I immediately fell in love with, despite my declaration, and the saga continues with each loss. Our dogs are our family, often the first to greet you in the morning and the happiest to see you return home. When that companionship and routine is disrupted it can really bring a person down, especially a child. The variety of emotions that one might feel after the loss of a dog is varied but, usually ranging from emptiness to sadness to anger.

Finding closure through remembering the wonderful life they shared with you.

Saying the final good bye by way of a memorial service or full fledged funeral can be helpful because it gives the child or adult an opportunity for closure. Offering the chance to speak, or pray or even to write the dog a final letter and toss it in the grave with him can somehow create a sense of connection, even after death. We have often planted a tree or shrub where the grave is located so that the dog or other pet’s last resting place is forever memorialized. My husband once had the pleasure of attending his good friend’s Lab’s burial and he added some marsh grass to the grave because that would have been “flowers” to her. We treat our dogs like family while they are here and there is nothing wrong with mourning their loss and creating a visual reminder for his humans left behind so that he lives forever in our hearts.

If your loved one is having a particularly difficult time coping with the loss then there is nothing wrong with trying to lighten the mood by telling funny stories or gathering odd photos of the dog that would make them laugh. Humor is a natural healer and it often brings about a feeling that everything is going to be ok. Drawing pictures or putting together a booklet or scrapbook about the dog might help to give him something to always have, a memento to look at when he is feeling particularly sad. It also comes in handy for allowing the child to share the loss with his friends or classmates.

Loss is never easy, but it's usually best to focus on the happy times.

Although grief is serious and should never be ignored a person should not allow another to dwell on the death for too long but, to help remember the good times. Keep in mind that some kids and adults move on from the loss of a pet much slower than others and should be allowed enough time to adequately heal.

There are several books out there that deal with the loss of a pet and many local libraries have a nice variety of these books available. If you have a particularly interesting or heartfelt story you would like to share please feel free to share it with us in the comment section below.

Helpful books to look into:

The Loss of a Pet: A Guide to Coping with the Grieving Process When a Pet Dies

Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet

The Pet Loss Companion: Healing Advice from Family Therapists Who Lead Pet Loss Groups

Humphrey Was Here: A Dog Owner's Story of Love, Loss, and Letting Go

Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog

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