Coping With the Loss of a Pet Companion

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It's not something I want to think about just yet, but our beloved dogs are getting older, and I know that we are going to have to face the loss of a pet sooner or later. And I'm going to have to navigate this emotional event not only for myself, but also with my children who've had our dogs as companions since they were very young.

It is not uncommon for people to bond deeply with their pets as they are often considered to be full members of the family these days. If the pet has been a comfort through a difficult life experience, that bond can be significant, which can make a loss of that animal very tough.

Pet Loss Support Groups

Also affecting the process of grieving over losing a pet companion is the fact that others may not understand why you are grieving over "just an animal." This is why it may be important to find a pet loss support group, where the depth of what you are feeling will be acknowledged and understood by others who are feeling the same thing. These pet loss support groups are often located through your veterinary office and even online. Please don't try to tell yourself that it's silly to hurt this much and avoid this resource. You may also find healing in supporting others through this process.

Everyone grieves differently

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some may have waves of sadness, and others may take days, weeks, months, or even years to adjust. For my family, we tend to cope by opening our hearts rather quickly to a new pet. Although this pet doesn't replace the hole the other left in our hearts, a new puppy or kitten does offer a fresh sense of hope, wonder, and joy. But don't feel you have to rush this process, either.

Pet Memorials

There are several options for honoring your pet's life. Perhaps you could donate to the shelter your pet was adopted from. There are several tasteful ways that a portion of your pet's ashes can be made into glass jewelry, or even simply spreading them at your pet's favorite place in the garden might bring you peace. There are several pet urns available as well. Again, just as there is no right or wrong way to grieve, honoring your pet is a personal choice, and you should give your heart and mind the space to acknowledge the space your pet provided in your life.

Visit Helpguide.org for more information.

What are some things you or your family have done to cope with the loss or honor the memory of your pet?

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Angie on July 23 at 12:14 PM said:

I know that is isn't for everyone, but when my four pound Chihuahua passed away unexpected, my world felt like it just fell in around me. So to honor her and to keep her close to me I got a tattoo of her paw print in a heart with the saying " God has you in his keeping, I have you in my heart." What makes it special is I took a small bit of her ashes and put them in the ink so she will be with me forever. She is and always will be my sweet baby girl.
Mary on July 23 at 1:40 PM said:

I think that is a really sweet sentiment, and I'm going to share your story with my teenage daughter who wants a tattoo. I've told her that a tattoo shouldn't just be fashion, but mean something since it's permanent. I think that's a beautiful way to honor your dog's memory and keep her close to your heart!
Cathy Ptaszynski on July 23 at 1:41 PM said:

I read the book, All Pets go to Heaven by Sandra brown, really helped me!
erin on July 23 at 2:22 PM said:

It has taken my daughter and myself 4 years to accept the deaths of our 2 pugs, our male had cancer and our female was born with a collapsing trachea that we didn't even know about until after I had to put down my 13yo male, and two months later she was gone. I knew what was happening with Ditto but Blossoms came as a total shock and it wasn't until recently that we got a new male pug which is just wonderful he makes me laugh and is a complete clown. I still miss my others and Bruce will never take their place he is a nice and loving addition to our lives.
Cheryl Dwyer on July 23 at 2:37 PM said:

My cat RitaMae passed away in 2000, before I had digital camera or cell phone so I only had a few pics of her. I scanned my favorite one & made it my wallpaper on ever PC & laptop I've had since then. Everyday I get to say hello to the best cat that ever lived.
Elaine on July 23 at 3:15 PM said:

I had to say good-bye to two Min. Schnauzer brothers in 2010. They were born 5 days apart. Casey developed diabetes and seizures; Brandon developed pancreatic diabetes two years later. Casey died in May 2010 and Brandon October 2010. I put their framed pictures on top of their ashes containers along with my other thee dog ashes/pictures in a little shrine in my living room. I can gaze at the pictures while we all watch t.v. just like we used to. And I miss all of them so very much.
Susan on July 23 at 8:31 PM said:

Thanks for this article. I have dealt with it and it's never easy. Comforting to read about how others cope as well.
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