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Coping with the Loss of a Beloved Pet

Pets are viewed as manipulating human responses that have evolved to facilitate human relationships, primarily (but not exclusively) between parent and child.

Study shows that losing a dog can be as difficult as losing a loved one.

Dealing with pet loss grief and coping strategies. Studies show that losing a dog can be as difficult as losing a loved one. Anyone who has owned a dog knows that it becomes more than just a pet: it becomes a family member.

That is why it is so difficult when a pet passes away. The loss is painful and challenging to accept, whether the pet died suddenly or from illness, after a long life or too young. Some people will heartlessly tell you to ‘get over it or that ‘it’s just a dog. These people do not understand what it means to lose a pet. They are more than just animals; getting over it is easier said than done. It may seem that nothing can be said to lessen the pain a pet owner feels after a loss.

The grief we feel at the loss of a pet is supported by scientific research. For example, one study showed that a person’s grieving process after losing a pet is genuine. Indeed, it can be more challenging to overcome a pet’s loss than a human being’s. This loss may sound absurd to some, but it is only one of the things the study discovered.

“Many studies show that our relationships with dogs can be even more satisfying than our human relationships.”

The fact is that we usually bond with our animals in a similar way to how we connect with humans. When we click with animals or people, our brains release hormones and chemicals that make us feel connected and loved. Therefore, when we spend a lot of our time deepening this bond, it is evident that we feel a profound loss.

It may be more challenging to overcome the loss of a dog

But why is overcoming a pet’s death more complex than a human’s? Because there is no ‘acceptable’ way to grieve. When we lose a human family member or loved one, many resources help us cope. In addition, we are often surrounded by others who have suffered the same loss, and their shared experience and kind words can help ease the pain.

Besides the community, we also have options such as counselling or therapy to help us through difficult times – and we are not criticised for the depth of our emotions. We do not have the same support when a pet dies. We are expected to get on with our lives, often go back to work, and have outings and events on the calendar in the days following the death. So we are cancelling plans because your pet died a week ago. Many people think this is a lousy excuse.

And because we have limited resources when facing this kind of loss, we try to repress our emotions. We never manage to come to terms with them or move on healthily. We bury our feelings. Psychologist Julie Axelrod says that in addition to losing a loved one, we also lose a source of comfort and unconditional love. It is a huge thing.

Grieving the loss of a dog is a painful process, but it is essential to remember that you are not alone. Your dog was a beloved family member, and their loss will leave a hole in your heart. But with time and healing, you can find peace in their memory.
Losing a dog can also seriously disrupt an owner’s daily routine.

I am losing a dog. A dog is like a family member.

Many of us have people who understand our grief after losing a pet but may not realise how deeply it affects us.

Losing a pet also has a domino effect because it changes your daily routine. It may be more disruptive than losing a human being in your life. Many of us have to plan our day around our dogs, ensuring they are let out, walked and fed. Then, when they leave, the loss is apparent.

Moreover, we struggle with the feeling that they are there even when they are not. We instinctively feel that our beloved dogs are elsewhere in the house or garden. Certain sounds make us think we hear the swish of their tail wagging or their toenails on the kitchen floor.

When we have to decide to end a dog’s suffering, the loss has an extra edge. It is a human choice, but it does not make it easier to say goodbye. Instead, we may struggle with the feeling that we could have done more or that we could have done differently for our dogs.

Losing a dog. How to Cope When You’re Grieving the Loss of a Pet

Attachment theory plays a role in how we process grief, as in R. Chris Fraley.

Our attachment style develops in early childhood and is primarily based on interactions with primary caregivers. What we learn during early development forms our worldview and shapes how we connect and relate to others.

“If we spend enough time [around] someone or something and there’s a connection, when it disappears, it’s like someone has taken your limbs away,” he says. “At some point, our brain processes things as if they are part of us, like if you’re a tennis player, your brain stops distinguishing between the racket and the arm.”

Guilt feelings

When animals are older or very sick, we as owners are usually faced with the tough decision of when to say goodbye. Unfortunately, this condition can lead to feelings of guilt. You might think, “Did I make the right decision?” or “What if they had more time?”

If these feelings come to mind, it may be helpful to change your mindset to see euthanasia in these circumstances as an act of compassion. Remember that if your vet advised you to say goodbye, your pet would most likely be in a lot of pain and would not improve.

How long is the pain after losing a dog or another pet?

The pain of losing a dog is like no other. They are our furry best friends, and their absence leaves a hole in our hearts that can never be filled. But even though we grieve their loss, we can also find comfort in the memories we share with them. They taught us about love, loyalty, and unconditional acceptance. And for that, we will be forever grateful.
People form strong attachments to their pets.

Since we all feel and process grief in our way, there is no clear answer for how long these feelings will last. You will probably notice more intense feelings immediately after the loss, but these will diminish.

It will take as long as it takes. It’s not a linear process, and that’s fine. Pain can come and go in waves. During this period, it can help to find your way of grieving and processing the death of a pet. Here are some suggestions.

Give vent to all your feelings.

You have experienced a loss, and it is OK to let yourself feel all the feelings surrounding it. “Cry whenever you feel like crying”. However, use your judgement as to when and where it is most appropriate. Tears release stress hormones. If you’re not a crybaby, that’s OK, too. “Everyone’s way is different.”

Try to practise self-compassion

Be good to yourself. Try to engage in some self-care activities while you are going through the grieving process. You can do this by creating extra space for your normal self-care activities or trying something new that you think will be restorative. Take a break from work if necessary.

Some self-care activities you can try at home are:

  • Soaking in a warm bath
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Journal writing
  • Taking time for a hobby
  • Read a book

Consider talking to someone who can relate.

“Talking about how you feel is incredibly helpful during pain, which is why it is useful for people to go to therapy or find a support group.” Find a way to talk about what and how you are feeling. You can do this with others who have lost a pet, a therapist or supportive friends and family.

Experience a grieving process.

Historically, societies and cultures have engaged in mourning rituals to cope with emotional pain after a loss. Trying a way might also help you grieve after the death of a pet. Try something familiar, such as organising a memorial or creating your practice.

For example, you could light a yahrzeit candle (a Jewish tradition to honour the anniversary of the death of a loved one). Another exercise you can do is to write a ‘thank you note to your deceased pet’. “Talk about everything you miss, what you are most grateful for, and what you are proud and happy about your beloved. Talk about what you regret. Say everything you want to say.”

These candles are a way to remember and honour your beloved dog on its Yahrzeit, the anniversary of its death. Let the candle flame remind you of the love and joy your dog brought into your life.

You are losing a dog. Consider finding a way to memorialise your pet.

Some people may want to get rid of their pet’s belongings quickly after a loss, while others may need to do so more gradually. Do it soon if you find removing your pet’s objects difficult. Remember that there is no right or wrong way. It is your process.

Consider finding a way to commemorate your pet.

An excellent way to honour your love for your pet is to commemorate them. If you like to create, try writing, making a photo collage, having a large canvas print or organising a resting place for them inside or outside your home.

If you are not artistically inclined, there are online services that make art from a photo of your pet. You can also find beautiful ways to preserve their remains (if you want to display them or wear them in a memorable piece of jewellery).

If you have lost a pet, know there is nothing wrong with your broken heart. Your dogs are your family, and it does not matter how others think you must feel. What you are going through is understandable. Even science agrees.

Thank you for reading the article to the end. Your reading contribution was significant to us.

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The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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