This month, ‘How do I recover from the loss of a pet dog?” was the most frequently asked question. Research shows that for many, the passing of a much-loved dog is comparable to the death of a human loved one.
Pet grief is real
“Euthanising Tina, my 16-year-old Labrador, was devastating. I cried more for her than when my 86-year-old grandmother passed,” wrote Lexi, a Eulogy For Life email subscriber.
Owning a dog is truly a gift that can change life and bring much happiness and gratitude. But when a pet dies, it can devastate life to the point of affecting health.
The New England Journal of Medicine reports on a woman who began experiencing chest pain following the death of her dog. Emergency room doctors diagnosed takotsubo cardiomyopathy – otherwise known as ‘broken-heart syndrome’ – a condition which mimics a heart attack.
There is no doubt the heartache we feel when a beloved dog dies is real. So too is the void that follows real. Daily routines stop abruptly. Reasons to rise in the morning to feed or exercise the dog vanish. Each day feels wrong. Something is missing and it hurts.
Recovering from pet loss
Recovering from pet loss means recognizing finding new ways to fill the void that opens following the pet’s death.
“I coped with my pet grief by continuing to wake at the same time every morning and walk my departed dog’s favourite route. However, I stopped short of sniffing his favorite posts,” wrote Amy, a Eulogy For Life email subscriber.
“For five years I’d been meeting every Thursday at my local dog café. Then when Max, my Yorkshire Terrier, died – I stopped going. I felt so depressed, isolated and alone,” wrote Bev.
Fortunately, Bev’s best friend Kay intervened. Kay insisted Bev collect her dog, Yorkie, and teach him a little café dog etiquette.
Social support after pet loss
According to new research social support is essential for recovery after the loss of a pet. Without it the bereaved can experience emotional distress and feelings of shame that lead to isolation.
Many of us who have lost a dog know attitudes toward pet loss are still very different. “It was just a dog,” is the all too common catch-cry from those yet to experience the power of love driving the human-animal bond.
Rituals to ease pet bereavement
Organizing a pet grief ritual is one way to reach out and give bereaved pet owners the recognition, support and consideration they need. Healthy grief rituals include:
• Organizing a burial or memorial service for the pet and invite supportive family and friends
• Plant a tree or a flower in memory of the departed pet
• Place a memorial marker on at the burial site or the dog’s favourite spot in the garden
• Write a letter or poem in honor of all the happy memories shared with your dog
• Make a memorial shadow box containing a photo and keepsakes
• Buy a memorial photo frame and place it where you see it every day
Helping bereaved pet owners personalize a pet grief ritual validates their loss and encourages better pet grief recovery.
Another popular ritual is placing a small portion of ashes in pet cremation jewelry.
Cremation jewelry to memorialize pets
Inside each exquisitely designed cremation pendant, necklace, keyring, or bracelet is a concealed airtight compartment—perfect for storing pet ashes. Keeping a much-loved dog’s ashes close allows the bereaved time to process their grief in their own way in their own time. Enjoy our hand-picked selection.
Encourage healthy pet loss grief.
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