Losing a dog can be a very painful experience. Although pain and grief is a natural response to losing a dog, the heartbreak can leave a deep sense of emptiness and loss.
Inside this article, I’m going to share with you ways you can comfort someone grieving the loss of their dog.
Why Does Losing A Dog Hurt So Much?
If you are a dog owner, then you already know just how much joy and fun a dog can bring into our lives. They offer us companionship and are a source of comfort and security. Our dogs makes us laugh and best of all, they’re always there for us, even in the darkest of times.
Dogs aren’t just “pets” but rather, they become members of our family and we tend to see them as our children. We care about them and their well-being their entire lives. They are dependent on us. And in some ways, we depend on them just as much.
Dogs give us a sense of purpose and bring meaning to our otherwise boring lives. Dogs can reduce our stress and ease our loneliness, and bring companionship to our lives.
So, when our beloved dog dies, it’s natural for a dog owner to feel hurt and sad.
The pain and sorrow is often overwhelming and triggers all sorts of painful emotions. No one can truly understand the depth of a dog owner’s grief and the attachment they had to their dog.
The Grieving Process
Grieving the loss of a beloved dog is a highly individual experience. The degree of grief a dog owner experiences will often depend on a variety of factors like their age, beliefs, past grief experiences, how long they’ve had their dog, and how their dog died.
As a rule of thumb, the longer a dog was with the owner, the more intense the emotional pain is. This is especially true for those who lived alone with their dog and it was their main source of companionship.
The emotional pain can turn into guilt if the owner was not able to afford costly medical treatment to prolong their dog’s life, or if their dog’s death could have been avoided in some way.
For some people, grief comes in stages. The owner of the deceased dog might experience different feelings over time including anger, guilt, bitterness, depression, acceptance, and finally resolution.
The pain is most intense immediately after the dog’s death, and it typically becomes more tolerable as time goes by. However, memories are sparked by different objects, places, events or anniversaries.
- The grieving process is gradual. There is no definite schedule for grieving. For some people, this process takes a few weeks. For others, the grieving process is measured in months or even years. The best approach is to show patience and allow the grieving process to naturally unfold.
- It is perfectly normal for them to feel sad, shocked, or lonely at the loss of their dog. Expressing these feelings and emotions doesn’t mean they are weak or unstable. It just means that they’re mourning the loss of their beloved pet.
- Attempting to ignore their grief or hiding it will only make it worse in the long run. They need to deal with the pain and sorrow rather than withholding their feelings. By showing their grief, they will likely need less time to heal. One of the best thing you can do is offer your support and a listening ear to talk about their loss.
How To Comfort Someone Grieving The Loss Of Their Dog
There are several ways in which you can help someone cope with the loss of their dog. The most important thing you can do is to be there for them. Be present, listen and observe how your friend mourns and then comfort them accordingly.
Here are six ways you can show your support without minimizing, or reducing, their grieving experience:
Rituals can help to heal
During one of your conversations, bring up the idea of them having a funeral for their lost dog.
Don’t worry about whether or not it is socially acceptable. If you have a friend or family member that you care about who is struggling with the loss of their dog, this can be a good way to bring closure and healing.
Send a comforting message
It’s typically really hard for dog owners struggling with the grief of losing their dog to open up about their grief.
Sending a comforting message can mean the world to someone who is grieving. It can be anything like a sympathy card or handwritten letter. The goal is to make it thoughtful and personable. Let your friend or loved one know that you care and that you’re thinking about them. Acknowledge the pain their are going through and that you are there for them.
Let Your Friend Open Up
Let your friend know that you are there to listen to. Remind the person that it’s normal and just to grieve a beloved dog. Allow the owner of the deceased dog to open up about their feelings.
Recall Positive Memories
You can recall positive memories of their deceased dog. Discuss how their furry friend had an impact on their life. You can recall any personal stories about their furry family member. Let them share their memories as many times as they need to.
Sending flowers is a sweet sympathy gesture to someone in mourning. You can send flowers to your friend to express your sympathy. Flower arrangements can honour the special relationship between dogs and their humans.
Get a Memorial
You can also get them something to memorialize their dog. Pet memorials can be a great way to celebrate and honour the life of their dog. It can help bring closure, healing, and help them move on.
It’s also a great way for your friend or loved one to celebrate the life and magic moments they shared with their dog.
Create a Memory Book
A tangible memory book or album can be more comforting than digitized items. It can help your friend embrace the memories with their beloved dog and become an act of healthy closure.
Help Them Take Care of Themselves
The stress of losing a dog can quickly drain the energy and emotional reserves. You can help your friend to look after their physical and emotional needs to help them get through this difficult time.
Spend time face to face with your friend. Go for a walk or a hike. Watch a movie together.
Ask your friend to take a healthy diet including fruit and vegetables or a nice, warm soup. Exercise is also beneficial as it releases endorphins and helps in mood-boosting. Encourage them to eat a healthy diet.
Help them to spend some time each day on de-stressing activities like meditating or reading a book.
Encourage them to help other pets
One of the best ways to get over the loss of a pet is to be around other animals that gives them love and attention. It may give them the idea of getting another dog at some point in the future.
A great way to do this is to volunteer at a local pet shelter. This will give them a sense of purpose.
Suggest a Support Group
If your friend is still struggling with grief after some time, you can suggest a pet loss support group. Encourage them to reach out to others who have lost their dogs.
Check out online dog loss hotlines and dog loss support groups. These groups can be found in many areas. Many hotlines are ready to take calls when needed. Also, there are pet loss support chat rooms that can be helpful.
Seek professional help
If the grief is persistent and interferes with their ability to function normally, you can recommend a grief counsellor or a mental health professional to evaluate their depression. They can help your friend to create an action plan for coping in the long-term.
Encourage them to maintain your normal routine with other pets
To cope with the grief, your friend needs to get back to a normal routine and take care of the surviving pets. This will help the surviving pets and help your friend to elevate their mood and outlook.
Helping Seniors Grieving The Loss Of A Dog
Many older people say they are closer to their dogs than any human being. They often form the most intense relationships with the pet. This connection and relationship make them feel more productive, useful and needed. The dog was probably their sole companion. Seniors experience deep companionship that helps stave off loneliness
The death of a dog can hit older people even harder than younger adults who might distract themselves with the routine of work. Understanding the magnitude and meaning of the relationship will let you help seniors grieving the loss of a dog. Here’s what you can do:
Understand the Complications
Honour the complicated feelings that older people might be struggling with the loss of their dog. Remember that the senior griever will likely be dealing with unresolved and complicated feelings of guilt, anger, or sadness. You can encourage them to express their feelings and listen to them.
Help Them Stay Connected with Friends
Seniors tend to spend time in loneliness after the death of their pet. Try to spend time with them and encourage them to regularly connect with friends and neighbours. Regular face-to-face contact can help seniors ward off depression.
Give Tangible Support
You can give them tangible support in various forms. Cook some healthy meals and invite them for lunch or dinner. Send flowers, personal notes, or pet memorials to honour their grief.
Boost Their Strength with Exercise
Dogs help older people to stay active and playful. This is great for their health and physical fitness. It is important to motivate the seniors to keep up their activity levels after the loss of their dog. Suggest some exercise and find an activity that they can enjoy. Playing tennis, golf, or attending an exercise class can also help them stay active and connect with others.
Find New Meaning and Joy in Life
Taking care of a dog previously occupied their time and boosted their morale and optimism. Try to fill that time by suggesting them a long-neglected hobby, taking a class, helping friends, or caring for homeless animal shelters. Encourage them to get another dog when the time feels right.
Seek Professional Help if Needed
If the symptoms of grieving persist in a way that makes it impossible for the senior to function, encourage them to seek help from a professional counsellor.
Helping Children To Grieve The Loss Of A Dog
Children love and play with their dogs and develop deep associations. The loss of a dog is a very traumatic and confusing experience for a child. Most kids tend to grieve for a shorter time, their grief is no less intense than adults. A child may feel scared and this loss may leave a negative impact on your child’s personal development.
If a dog does tragically and unexpectedly, it is harder for the child to accept. You need to teach and help a child with coping with grief and pain. Here’s what you can do:
Give Assurance to the Child
The death of a dog can raise a lot of questions and fears in a child. It’s crucial to talk about all their feelings and concerns. You need to reassure the child that they weren’t responsible for the dog’s death.
Hold a “Goodbye” Ritual
Goodbye rituals and memorial services are some of the most meaningful ways to recognise a dog’s life. Creating a memorial for the deceased dog can help a child express their feelings openly and help process the loss. Allow the child to be involved in any memorial service if they desire.
Be Honest About What Happened
If the child is asking about the details of their dog’s death, it shows that they want to talk about it. Include the child in everything that is going on. Explain why and how the dog died.
Talk About Their Grief
Give the child permission to work through their grief. Respect their grief and let them express their feelings openly. Tell their teacher about the pet’s death. Kids should feel proud that they love and care deeply about their furry companions.
Get a Pet Memorial
Sometimes it’s easier for a child to cope with the loss of a pet if they have something to remember their dog by. This could be a pendant with a photo of their dog, a photo frame to go in their room, a plaster cast of their dog’s paw print or even a granite pet memorial to put in the backyard.
Do Not “Replace” the Dog
It’s important to help a child heal and move on but you should wait until the shock of the news fades. Given the child ample time to grieve the loss of their dog. Your child may feel disloyal if you simply get them a replacement.
The most important thing is to talk about the deceased dog, often and with love and compassion. Let the child know that while the sorrow and pain will go away, the loving memories of the dog will always remain!
Helping Other Dogs Mourn
When you lose a dog, it can be difficult for surviving dogs as well. Dogs demonstrate their grief in different ways. When they are stressed, they become quiet, lethargic, less active, have a decreased appetite, or stay close to the deceased dog’s bed or resting place.
As a dog parent, you can help the surviving dog cope up with the grief. Here’s what you can do for your dog:
- You can help your dog adjust to the loss of its companion pet by sticking carefully to its normal routine.
- Take your dog for an extra walk each day.
- Provide plenty of interacting toys.
- Give your surviving dog lots of love, attention, and bonding with one another.
- Start some training sessions with your dog. Try obedience training or work on polishing your dog’s current skills.
- Play extra games like fetch, frisbee toss, or tug-of-war.
The goal is to find things to share with your dog while you both are grieving your furry companion. Just how long-suffering lasts varies for everyone. Just remember that you’re never alone in your grief. It’s completely natural to mourn the loss of a deceased dog.
Getting Another Dog After The Loss
There are many wonderful justifications to once again share your life with a furry companion. It seems best and tempting to rush out and help your loved ones get another pet. However, it is best to let someone mourn the deceased dog first. Wait until the dog owner is emotionally ready to open their heart and home to a new pooch.
You can suggest your friend start by volunteering at a shelter or rescue group. Caring for rescue dogs is not only great for dog owners but also the animal.
Some old people living alone may find it hardest to adjust to life without a dog. Taking care of the pet not only provides companionship but also gives them a sense of purpose in life. Consider getting them another dog at an earlier stage. Again, contacting a rescue centre to become a dog parent will be a great idea to help dogs in need.
It’s always hard to say goodbye to a much-loved member of your family. The loss of a pet is an extremely sad time for pet owners. No matter how they die, it’s always upsetting!
During these difficult times, a pet memorial can help ease the pain and provide closure. These memorials will help your loved ones cherish the timeless memories of your pet. Pet memorials reflect on the “magic” moments they’ve shared.
"Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation." -Rumi
I liked it when you said that sometimes it’s easier for a child to cope with the loss of a pet if they have something to remember their dog by. We have had a Shih Tzu pet for seven years. Unfortunately, she passed yesterday due to some unknown reason. To remember her forever, we will buy her a headstone and put it above her grave.