Healing From The Loss Of A Pet

Girl playing with dog in the park

I lost my first dog at nine, he was a shoodle or a shih poo, if you may (a cross between a Shih tzu and a Poodle) and I called him Cookie. Cookie was the shortest and most energetic dog I ever had – always running around the house on his tiny light brown paws and pouncing on people whenever he gets the chance. Our family had him for eight years and he’s been a huge part of my childhood. At the time, I haven’t fully grasped the concept of death yet. It was my first experience dealing with death and it was a traumatic one to say the least. I kept expecting for Cookie to run around days after his death. I kept asking my mom what time Cookie would wake up from his nap. I was so convinced that he was just over at the vet, regaining his strength and waiting for me to pick him up. The permanence of death hasn’t dawned on me yet. I didn’t watch when he was buried and I wish I had. I wish I took more pictures of him as well.


Losing a pet is a heartbreaking experience. For many of us, our pets are an integral part of our family, offering us companionship, comfort, and unconditional love. When they pass away, it can be incredibly challenging to come to terms with the loss and it’s natural to feel a wide range of emotions. Grief, sadness, anger, and guilt are all common feelings when dealing with the loss of a pet. Through all these, it’s essential to remember that healing is possible, and there are ways to cope with the pain.


Losing a Pet is a Real and Valid Form of Grief


Our pets are as much a family as anyone else and losing them can be just as challenging and painful. It’s not just a dog, a cat, a hamster, or a fish. They’ve been with us at our worst and lowest, they provided us comfort that sometimes not even our loved ones can provide, and they love us unconditionally simply because they know we are their humans. Their pure souls are just programmed that way- to trust and love us unconditionally.


It’s essential to allow ourselves to grieve and feel the sadness permeate our being for a while. We let ourselves feel the emptiness of our homes, we permit ourselves to cry over our pets simply because we love them. Letting our emotions wash over us can be a very healing first step towards acceptance of their deaths. Many people may not understand the depth of emotions we’re feeling but it’s important to know that it’s entirely normal to grieve the loss of a pet.


Creating a Memorial or Tribute to Our Pets Can Help for Our Healing


When we lose our pets, we won’t have anything left of them except memories and pictures to remind us that we had such amazing pure angels on our sides for a short amount of time. Creating a tribute to our pets and honoring their memory and the bond we shared with them can be one of the most healing things we can do for ourselves while we grieve. We can plant a tree where they are buried, we could create a scrapbook of their pictures and memorabilias, or we could make a donation to a pet-related charity. All these things can help us feel like we’re doing something positive to remember our pets and cope with our loss.


Self-Care After Losing Our Pets

When we grieve, we forget to take care of ourselves-grieving takes a huge chunk of our days and we simply spend hours with nothing but our pets on our minds. We forget to sleep, eat, and basically do anything to sustain ourselves. This eventually adds to our feelings of sadness and emptiness over time. In order to move on from the loss of a pet, we must remember that taking care of ourselves is one of the most crucial steps in healing and letting go. By focusing on ourselves and doing things that make us even the tiniest bit happy, we slowly let go of our beloved pets while keeping them in our hearts and also moving forward to a new beginning. 


Some self-care practices we can do while grieving are:


1. Getting enough rest


Grief can be exhausting and we can easily forget to sustain ourselves through the process. We have to remember to get enough rest while mourning so that when we’re ready, we can move forward with renewed energy and well-being.


2. Engaging in exercise


Exercising through the grieving process can help boost our mood and reduce stress levels that come with pet loss. It can also help us process our emotions and feel more connected to our bodies. We can consider going for a walk, practicing yoga, or hitting the gym. Finding a physical activity that we enjoy can be a helpful part of our self-care routine as we go through the process of healing.


3. Practicing Mindfulness


Mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help us stay present and centered during this difficult time. These practices can help us manage our emotions, reduce stress levels, and find a sense of calm. We can set aside time each day to practice mindfulness, even if it’s just for a few minutes.


4. Doing something we enjoy


While it is difficult to do the things we usually enjoy during the grieving period, we have to remind ourselves that doing these things would make the healing process better. Engaging in activities we love like reading, listening to music, or simply sipping tea will help distract us from our grief and bring us little moments of joy throughout the day.


5. Connecting with nature


Spending time in nature can be a powerful way to connect with our emotions and find a sense of peace. We can go for a hike, visit a park, or simply sit outside and breathe in the fresh air. Nature can provide a healing space for us to process our grief and find solace.


Seeking Support From Others


Pet loss can be isolating and overwhelming but we have to remember that support is always available, in fact, it is crucial during this period. It’s okay to reach out to family and friends and talk about our pets and the grief we’re feeling. When we lose our furry friends, we often feel a wide range of emotions, from sadness and anger to guilt and regret. These emotions can be difficult to manage on our own, and seeking support from others can provide a space to express these emotions and receive validation. Talking to others who have gone through similar experiences can help us feel less alone in our grief. As we share stories and memories of our pets, we honor and celebrate the life they’ve lived with us.


We can also seek support from pet loss support groups or counseling. These resources can provide a safe and supportive space to also share our feelings and connect with others who understand what we’re going through. They can also share insights into what has worked for them, or they may be able to offer practical advice on how to manage our emotions.


Taking the Time to Heal From the Loss


Healing from the loss of a pet takes time. It’s important to allow ourselves to grieve and work through our emotions in our own time. It’s okay to cry, talk about our pet, or take some time to ourselves to process our feelings. It’s essential to remember that grief is a personal and unique experience. Everyone grieves differently, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Some people may find comfort in creating a memorial or tribute to their pet, while others may find solace in spending time in nature or engaging in self-care activities. Whatever works for us, it’s important to honor our feelings and find ways to cope that feel authentic and meaningful to us.


Healing is a process and it’s okay to take things one day at a time. The love we shared with our pets will never fade, and the memories we have of them will always be with us. By finding ways to honor their memory and take care of ourselves, we can find a sense of peace and healing after the loss of a pet. We should acknowledge that the pain of losing a pet may never fully go away. Still, with time, we can learn to cope with our grief and move forward with the knowledge that our pets will always hold a special place in our hearts.