Death is an inevitable part of life, both for us and our pets.
However, that doesn’t make it any easier, especially when someone close to us passes away.
Considering the close bond we share with our dogs, this can definitely be a big loss – no matter what some people may say.
Losing your dog can cause enormous pain and you’re definitely not the only one feeling this way, even though some people might not understand that. This is why we wanted to focus on this in our article and help you cope with your loss. We’re answering some of the most common questions we get when it comes do coping with dog death.
Is It Normal To Feel This Sad?
Yes! Grief over the loss of an animal is not only normal, but healthy in the process of moving on. People without pets may not understand this and it happens a lot that you get some rather hurtful questions, such as What’s wrong with you? or Why are you overreacting?
Don’t take this personal, you’re not crazy! Your dog was a family member to you and it’s only natural to feel the way you’re feeling. For a certain period of time, your dog was your friend and companion, so your grief makes all the sense in the world. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
What Do I Do If Others Devaluate My Pain?
As mentioned, this happens a lot, especially if the people in your surrounding don’t have pets on their own and can’t relate. It’s a common misassumption that pet loss hurts much less than human loss and that it’s “not normal” to be in so much pain.
If these are some of the reactions you’re dealing with, it’s best not to argue with people who feel this way as you won’t be able to convince them that it’s normal, if they haven’t experienced the pain themselves. Accept the fact that not everyone can help you with this and that you have to find the people who can.
Talk to other people who have lost their pets as they will understand what you’re going through.If people without pets can’t understand you, there are other pet owners who have been, or are going through, the same pain. Talk to them and you’ll see that you’re definitely not alone.
What Am I Feeling?
Grief is a very complicated process and isn’t characterized by one emotion only. It’s more a myriad of feelings, mixed or shifting. So, you might not be sure what you’re feeling, which is completely normal. This is all very individual and largely depends on your personality and on the kind of relationship you and your dog had.
Some of the most common feelings in a grief process are guilt, anger, depression and denial. You might be feeling angry at yourself for certain reasons, at the sickness that killed your dog or at the veterinarian. Guilt is also a very common feeling, where you’re blaming yourself and creating various “what if” scenarios in your head.
Denial is often the first step in the grief process, making it impossible for you to accept that your dog is no longer with you. Depression usually comes a bit later and makes it very difficult to deal with your feelings and move on, as you don’t feel that you have the energy or the will.
The Grieving Process
As mentioned, the grieving process is a complicated process, but it’s important to understand that it shouldn’t be forced or hurried. Let it take whatever time it takes. Be patient and let the process happen gradually – what might take a couple of weeks for one person, can take months for another.
Grief responses can be divided into emotional and behavioral response. Emotional ones are the feelings you feel, such as shock, disbelief, lack of appetite, guilt etc. Behavioral are very different from person to person, but for instance it can be holding on to objects of your dog or avoiding to do some things you used to do with your pet.
The bottom line is – everyone deals with problems differently. Don’t ignore your feelings or convince yourself they’re not normal – just because someone said so or did it differently. It will only make things worse and prolong the healing process in the long hall. Face your sorrow and deal with it accordingly – it’s the only way to cope with your emotions.
If you want to find out more about the grieving process, check out the video below.
How Do I Cope With My Sorrow?
- Don’t let anyone convince you that it’s not normal to grief. When you feel that it’s time to move on, you’ll do so – no one else should rush you.
- Let yourself cry and be sad. Holding it in will only make things worse and you won’t be able to let go. There’s nothing unnatural about feeling sorrow for your dog, no matter what someone says.
- Talk to people who understand. Let people in your surrounding know what happened, so that they’re aware. Has anyone else been in the same situation? Talk to people who can relate, not the ones telling you to get over yourself.
- Cherish the memories. It can hurt in the beginning, we know. However, with time you will be able to look back on the times with your dog and be grateful for the time you had. Remember your dog by posting photos or putting them up on your wall. You can also do something in memory of your dog, like planting a tree or flower or whatever else you have in mind.
- Stop feeling guilty. Easier said than done, we know. Guilt is something most of us feel when we lose a pet, thinking that we should have spent more time with our dog or blaming ourselves for the way it passed away. At some point, though, you have to stop blaming yourself and understand that you did everything you could and that it was good enough.
- Try to maintain a normal routine. This is especially important if you have other animals, which still need you to take care of them. This doesn’t mean that you should shut out your emotions, but that routine can help you in moving on.
How Do I Help My Child With The Grief?
If you have children, you’re not the only one in grief. Children and dogs form a special bond, especially if the dog has been around since the child was a baby. When the dog passes away, your natural instinct might be to shield your children from the sadness by hiding the truth or not talking about what happened. This is a common mistake parents make, with the best intentions.
Instead of telling your child that the dog went to a farm or ran away, tell them what really happened. You don’t have to go into all the details of course, but it’s important that they understand what happened. Try to explain that death is an inevitable part of life and that every dog owner will go through this at some point. Even though the child will feel very sad at first, it’s better to give him or her the opportunity to deal with it and grief, than to make things even more confusing by hiding the truth.
- Don’t hide your feelings from your child. By expressing your grief, you will show that it’s normal to feel sad and confused. You will also encourage your child to express his or her feelings, which will help in the grieving process.
- Talk about it. If your child wants to talk a lot about what happened, be there. On the other hand, if your child is dealing with this more silently that’s fine too. Some people need to talk more, some less. It doesn’t mean they’re not dealing with the problem; it’s simply their way of coping.
- Reassure your child. Explain that death isn’t anyone’s fault, especially not theirs. Try to explain that you should be grateful for the time you had with your dog.
- Don’t get a new pet right away. Give everyone time to grieve the loss. A new pet bought right away can send the wrong message, by saying that a new animal will cure the sadness.
- Involve your child. If you’ve chosen euthanasia for your dog, explain this to your child the best way you can. Explain why it has to be done and ask if he or she wants to spend some more time with the pet before it’s time.
How Do I Explain Euthanasia To My Child?
Try to explain it as simply as possible. Tell your child that the dog is sick and suffering and that this will eliminate the pain. Explain that it’s the best choice, as you don’t want your dog to feel more pain. Reassure your child that it’s a simple injection and that it won’t hurt.
Try to be a role model for your child. Kids pick up on emotions easily, so if they see that you’re very insecure and unhappy about this decision, they’ll start acting the same way. Try to be as calm as possible, but also show that you’re sad as well and that it’s normal to feel that way.
When talking about emotions, explain the difference between guilt and sadness. There’s no reason to feel guilty about euthanasia, while it’s completely normal to feel sad.
You can also consider euthanizing your dog at home in order to ensure he spends his last moments in a familiar surrounding and with people he loves.
When Is The Right Time To Get A New Pet?
There’s no right answer to this question, as everyone is different. However, it’s usually not recommended to get a new dog right after the death of your previous one. Even it you think that this will solve everything, you need time to grieve your passed dog. This is especially the case with children.
Kids often feel like they’ve betrayed their old dog if they get a new one right away. They feel disloyal and confused, as they didn’t have enough time to process. So, give everyone time to grieve and accept the loss before you get a new dog.
You should get a new pet when you’re ready and when you want to create a bond again – not in order to compensate for the loss. It’s also important not to compare your new dog with the previous one. Every dog is different, which is a great thing. Don’t expect it to behave like your old dog and accept your new family member.
Dealing with your dog’s death isn’t easy at all. It’s very normal to feel the way you do and if it helps – you’re definitely not the only one feeling like this. The grieving process is a complicated and complex process, different for everyone.
You may feel angry, depressed, guilty or something else. Whatever you’re feeling, accept it and give yourself time to grieve. Talk to people who understand and/or have been through the same loss, as not everyone will understand what you’re going through. Simply tell people so that they’re aware of what’s going on, but you can’t expect from everyone to get it.
Another difficult thing is to explain dog death to your children. However, no matter how difficult, don’t hide the truth from your child. Try to explain what really happened and let them go through the grieving process. This is a much better solution in the long hall, even though it will be tough in the moment.
The bottom line is – death is inevitable and you have to cope with it the best you can. Everyone is different and you’ll know what the best way for you is. Don’t forget the most important thing – it’s completely normal, so don’t shut out your feelings.