We all bring dogs into our lives knowing that they will probably not outlive us. Yet when a beloved dog dies, we're often unprepared for the overwhelming sadness it brings.
Losing a dog is especially painful because the bond you share with him is unique. A dog loves you unconditionally-he doesn't care if you got that promotion or how you looked at your high school reunion. For some people, a dog's death can hurt more than losing a relative or friend. That's why it's important to go through the process of mourning, just as you would for a human relationship.
- Acknowledge that your dog's death is a huge, sad event. Don't downplay it, or feel that it's not important because "he's just a pet."
- Experience and express feelings of sadness, anger, or guilt about the loss. Know that tears, anger, and sometimes fear can be part of the process.
- Talk to friends who can empathize-surround yourself with people who understand your grief and avoid people who don't.
- Join a pet loss support group, especially if you feel extremely sad or angry. Expressing your sadness may be easier with others who have experienced pet loss.
- Accept that you may never totally get over the loss. You'll always remember your dog and the wonderful times you shared.
Explaining your dog's death to a child
You may be hesitant to tell your child about your dog's death, because you want to shield him or her from emotional pain. While that's understandable, keep in mind that children can deal with death surprisingly well if it's discussed in an honest, straightforward manner.
Simply explain that all living things must come to an end, and unfortunately, pets don't live as long as we do. One term you should avoid using is "put to sleep." A child might misinterpret the meaning of this, and be afraid of going to bed. It may also help the grieving process to encourage your child to share their favorite memories. Your child may even want to have a funeral for the dog. Memorializing your pet can make it easier to say goodbye.
Remember, the sorrow is real and everyone deals with it differently. There is no right way to grieve. Be patient. And know that there is no timetable for healing-the grief process takes as long as necessary.