What are you supposed to do when your pet dies? Losing a dog can be one of the most difficult things that you will ever go through in your life, especially if the two of you always enjoyed an especially close bond with one another. To make matters worse, other people who don’t allow themselves to get as close to animals as you do may not understand what you’re going through. The truth is, some people grieve for their deceased pet just as much as they grieve for a human being. The problem is, they’re often told by others that they shouldn’t be grieving that much because it’s “just a dog.” This makes people feel like they’ve done something wrong by grieving in the manner that they’re grieving. You should never feel guilt over the grieving process. No one can understand exactly what you’re going through or what you are feeling, as every person is different. However, there are some guidelines that you can follow that might help you when you’re grieving the loss of your dog—your best friend.
It’s Okay to Feel the Way You Are Feeling
The first thing pet owners need to understand is that it’s perfectly okay to feel the way you are feeling. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have any business grieving, being sad, feeling angry, or anything else that you’re feeling over your dog’s death. Remember, every person is different and everyone grieves in their own way. Truth be told, even another person who lost their own beloved dog can’t know exactly what you’re feeling, because your situation is unique. Unfortunately, people sometimes try to tell others that their feelings are not valid. That simply isn’t true. Other people may not always understand the feelings of dog owners, and that’s okay. They don’t need to. Just know that your feelings are valid. Whether you feel numb or you’re feeling profound grief, it’s better to acknowledge how you feel and allow yourself to experience those feelings than it is to try to act like you don’t feel those emotions because you’re worried about how someone else will perceive you. Make no mistake about it, not everyone will understand. At the end of the day, they don’t need to. This is about you, your relationship with your pet, and the way that losing them makes you feel.
The Thing About Grief
One of the hardest things about the grieving process is that it has a tendency to sneak up on you when you least expect it. It has a tendency to come and go. You might be having a day where you’re feeling a bit better, thinking that things might soon get back to some semblance of normal. Out of the blue, those feelings of grief creep up on you. Sometimes it’s because you see someone else with their pet or you pass a store that sells dog toys. Other times, it just happens for no apparent reason. The roller coaster effect of grief can send you into despair in a matter of seconds. It can also be confusing. You have moments where you’re not even sure what you’re feeling. If someone were to ask you to put it into words, you would find it difficult to do so. Understand that this is normal. It’s extremely unpleasant and it’s enough to rattle your cage for some time, but it is, unfortunately, part of the grieving process. As such, it’s something that practically everyone experiences from time to time. Some grieving pet owners even seek help from others like a pet loss support group.
Immediately After Your Loss
Chances are, your grief will be the most intense in the days and weeks immediately after your pet’s death. There is no such thing as an easy loss, not when you love someone and if it’s your best friend or worse, your first dog! Even if your pet was very old and passed peacefully in his sleep, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have the same intense feelings of grief as everyone else. That said, there are certain circumstances that can make those feelings even more intense. If something traumatic happened to your pet that caused his death, you might find yourself unable to move past that moment in your mind, especially if you saw it. There are few things in life worse than watching someone you love suffer. It doesn’t matter if the suffering lasted seconds or if it was more prolonged, it’s exceedingly painful to think about someone you love being in pain or feeling frightened. Watching your dog be injured and then seeing him pass can do a real number on your mental health. On top of the grief of losing him, you end up replaying those last few moments in your mind over and over again as if doing so can somehow affect the outcome.
Your Day-to-Day Grief
Unfortunately, a lot of people try to push those types of thoughts out of their minds as a way of trying to protect themselves. Sadly, this can do more harm than good. When something tragic happens, the mind tries to process what has happened by replaying those events. In short, replaying these things over and over in your mind is basically your brain’s way of absorbing that information and allowing you to process it so that you can mentally move on at some point in the future. It’s painful to do it, but it could be a lot more harmful in the long run to refrain from allowing the process to occur. Trying to hide your pain from everyone, even yourself only suppresses it for a time. Eventually, that pain will resurface again, and it’s often far more intense than it was, to begin with, because it was never acknowledged. In short, it can make you feel like you’re losing control of your own mental and emotional stability. That’s why it’s so important to just allow yourself to feel the way you feel. If you find yourself replaying those last few moments of your sweetest dog over and over again, allow it to happen, as it’s part of the grieving process. As painful as it is, it will eventually help you, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.
Your Grief Moving Forward
This is actually one of the hardest times. Immediately after you lose your pet, you’re likely to be in shock. Logically, you know what has happened, yet you’re unable to process it. After a day or two goes by, your grief typically intensifies as your brain begins to accept the fact that your pet really is gone. As you move forward in the weeks and months after that initial event, your grief can sometimes consume you. At other times, it’s likely to confuse you. You have moments where you almost feel normal, then you remember that your pet is gone and you start to feel guilty because you are laughing or enjoying something as opposed to being filled with grief. This too is normal. It’s something that almost everyone experiences after they have suffered a significant loss. It’s that incredibly uncomfortable time when things are just beginning to level out, yet you almost feel as if you’re leaving your pet behind.
Finding Your Way
Rest assured, that’s not what you’re doing at all. In fact, what you’re actually doing is something that everyone who experiences a loss must eventually do. You’re learning to live your life in the best way you know how without your pet by your side. Think about it this way. There is every chance that your dog spent virtually every waking moment of his life trying to make sure that you were happy, safe, and protected. When you cried, he would probably snuggle you, try to get you to play with him, or even lick your tears. As such, he would never be okay with you grieving in the extreme for the rest of your life. If it’s hard for you to move forward, think about doing it as a way to honor your friend, even when it’s hard to do so.
Getting Another Dog
The very idea of getting another dog can bring those waves of grief over you all over again. At the same time, you might feel incredibly lonely without a pet. If you come home and the house seems quiet and you see an empty dog crate, it would probably do you good to get a new dog. As opposed to feeling guilty, realize that you’re not replacing the dog that you lost in any manner. Instead, you’re giving another dog a chance to have a happy and loving home. If you’re adopting that dog from a shelter, you’re giving him or her a second chance at life. What better way to honor your beloved friend than that? By the way, there’s also nothing wrong with not wanting to wait a long time to get another dog. Some people may not understand your decision if you want to get one very soon after your pet has passed, but you know best what your heart needs in order to heal. If adopting another dog can help accomplish that, don’t allow anyone, not even yourself, to make you feel guilty for doing so.
Clearly, there is nothing standard about the grieving process. Unfortunately, it is an intensely personal process that often makes you feel like there isn’t another person on the face of the Earth that understands what you’re going through . To an extent, they don’t. Even those who genuinely try can’t truly understand exactly how you feel. On top of losing someone that you love dearly, that feeling of loneliness is exceptionally difficult to cope with. The best thing you can do is be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling in the moment. As opposed to turning away from it, sit with it for a while and give yourself a chance to process your feelings. That doesn’t mean you have to explain those feelings to anyone else, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to do so if you have someone who’s willing to listen. Of course, you can always read through the following Frequently Asked Questions section in order to get as much information as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should you do when you miss your dog?
First and foremost, understand that it’s perfectly okay to miss your dog. Your feelings are just as valid as anyone else’s. The most important thing you can do is acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to experience them. Whatever you do, don’t try to force yourself not to feel what you’re already naturally feeling. All that will do is make the entire situation worse later on down the road. Realize that it’s okay if other people don’t understand what you’re feeling. You don’t need to rely on someone else for validation when it comes to your feelings.
Is it normal to miss my dog so much?
Yes, it is. Unfortunately, people who have never had an especially close bond with a dog may not understand what you’re feeling, but that’s okay. No one else has to understand what you’re feeling as long as you are patient with yourself. If you lose a dog that you have been especially close to, it is as big a loss as losing an important person in your life. Don’t allow anyone else to make you feel guilty for feeling the way you feel. Truth be told, it’s not only normal to miss your dog this much, but it’s also normal for those feelings to last for a considerable amount of time—dog lovers know this. In fact, don’t be surprised if you find yourself thinking about your dog years after the fact and still missing her. There’s nothing wrong with that. As long as you’re dealing with your feelings in a healthy manner, you can feel any way you need to feel about the situation. It’s really not anyone else’s business.
Will I ever get over losing my dog?
That’s a loaded question, isn’t it? Most people want to hear that there will come a time when they no longer have grief and everything is back to normal. The truth is, that isn’t the way things work. Losing someone you love changes things from that point forward. Things will never be exactly as they were before that event occurred. As such, things will always be a bit different and you will always think about your dog. It’s okay if you think about her and miss her years after she’s passed. It’s even okay if you cry about it. The key is to learn how to deal with your feelings in a way that allows you to process them and continue moving forward with her memory in your heart, not simply trying to suppress your feelings or dealing with them in an unhealthy manner. Someone once said that grief is the price that we all pay for love and that is unfortunately true. The good news is that eventually, you’ll start to remember a lot more of the good memories and a lot less of the pain, even though the pain will never completely go away.
How long will I grieve for my dog?
There is no specific timeline. Every person processes grief differently. It doesn’t matter if you grieve intensely for a few days and then start to feel a bit better or if you’re still grieving a year down the road, it’s okay. Even if several years have passed and you still find yourself thinking about her with tears welling up in your eyes, that’s okay too. Chances are, you’re not going to grieve like anyone else because you’re unique. Therefore, you shouldn’t worry about comparing yourself to anyone else, nor should you concern yourself with being bothered by what other people think.