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Home Living with Dogs Pet Loss Grief: Self-Care & Healing Tips for Dog Owners

Pet Loss Grief: Self-Care & Healing Tips for Dog Owners

by Dan Turner
Dan Turner

Losing a furry friend is heart-wrenching. It’s like saying goodbye to a family member who’s been there through thick and thin. I’ve been there, and it’s a rollercoaster of emotions that seems impossible to navigate.

But through my journey, I’ve gathered some insights and tips that have helped me cope with the loss and grief of losing my beloved dog.

It’s crucial to remember grieving is a personal process, and there’s no right or wrong way to feel. Whether it’s your first time facing the loss of a pet or you’ve been through this painful experience before, I’m here to share what’s helped me through the hope that it might ease your pain too.

Acknowledge your Emotions

Losing a dog isn’t just losing an animal; it’s saying goodbye to a member of your family. I’ve been through this heart-wrenching experience more times than I’d like to admit, and each time, the flood of emotions feels overwhelming. It’s vital to understand that these feelings are not only normal but necessary for healing. Here’s why acknowledging your emotions is a crucial step in coping with the loss of your furry friend.

First off, it’s okay to feel sad, angry, or even guilty. These emotions are part of the grieving process. When I lost Benny, my golden retriever who was more like my shadow than a pet, I went through a rollercoaster of emotions. Some days I felt numb; other days, I couldn’t stop the tears. What I’ve learned is, allowing yourself to feel these emotions is the first step towards healing.

Remember, there’s no “right” way to grieve. Society sometimes expects us to move on too quickly from our grief, especially when it comes to pets. But your feelings are valid, no matter how much time has passed.

Here are some practical steps I found helpful during my grieving process:

  • Talk about your feelings. Whether it’s with friends, family, or a support group, talking can be incredibly therapeutic.
  • Write down your thoughts. Keeping a journal helped me process my emotions at my own pace.
  • Create a memory box or album. Collecting photos and mementos of my time with Benny provided me comfort and a sense of closeness.

Most importantly, don’t rush yourself through the grieving process. Healing takes time, and it’s different for everyone. I stumbled upon a quote that said, “Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love.” It reminded me that feeling this deep sorrow was a testament to the incredible bond I had with my dog.

During grief, it’s also important to take care of yourself. Whether it’s taking a walk, reading, or another form of self-care, give yourself permission to find joy again. It doesn’t mean you’re forgetting your beloved pet; it means you’re finding a way to live with the love they left behind.

Create a Memorial

After my beloved dog passed away, I found solace in creating a memorial that celebrated his life. It was a therapeutic way to process my grief, keeping his memory alive in a tangible manner. Here’s how I went about it, and maybe these steps can help you too.

Firstly, I chose a special spot in my garden. It was his favorite place to snooze in the sun. I planted a tree there, something that would grow and thrive, symbolizing the continuance of life. Every time I look at the tree, I’m reminded of the joyful times we shared.

  • Pick a meaningful location: Whether it’s a corner in your garden or a special spot in your home, choose a place that was dear to both you and your pet.

Next, I gathered some of his favorite toys, his collar, and a handful of pictures. With these, I created a small but heartfelt display inside my home. This wasn’t just a shrine; it was a celebration of his life, bringing back fond memories whenever I passed by.

  • Gather mementos: Toys, collars, or even a piece of their bedding can be comforting reminders.

The most impactful step for me was writing a letter to him. It might sound silly, but pouring my heart out on paper was incredibly cathartic. I spoke about the good times, the lessons he taught me, and how much I missed him. This letter is now tucked away in his display, a personal tribute just between us.

  • Write a letter: Share your feelings, memories, and how your pet changed your life. It’s a deeply personal way to say goodbye.

For those who are tech-savvy, creating an online memorial can be a way to share the love for your pet with others. Websites and social media platforms offer spaces where memories can be shared, and support can be found amongst those who understand your loss.

  • Create an online memorial: A digital space to celebrate your pet’s life with friends, family, and others who understand your grief.

Remember, creating a memorial is a deeply personal process. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Along this journey, I’ve learned that the physical presence of my dog might be gone, but the love we shared and the memories we made are forever etched in my heart.

Reach Out for Support

Losing a furry companion isn’t just hard; it’s heart-wrenching. During these times, leaning on friends, family, or communities who understand what you’re going through can be incredibly comforting. I’ve found that sharing my story, no matter how many tears it brings, helps me feel a little less alone. Let me share a few ways you can seek support and find solace.

Talk to Friends and Family

First up, don’t underestimate the power of a good chat. Your friends and family might not have the perfect words to say, but just having someone to listen can mean the world. I’ve had conversations that ranged from sharing funny stories about my dog to just sitting in silence. Both were equally healing.

Join Online Communities

The internet is a treasure trove of support groups and forums dedicated to pet loss. When I first looked for support online, I was amazed at the number of people willing to listen, share their stories, and offer heartfelt advice. It’s a space where you can openly express your grief without fear of judgment.

Seek Professional Help

If you’re finding it particularly tough to navigate your feelings, talking to a professional could be a great option. Therapists who specialize in grief can offer strategies to cope with your loss in a healthy way. I’ve benefited from a few sessions myself, and it made a significant difference in my healing process.

Attend Support Groups

There’s something uniquely comforting about being in a room with people who truly understand your pain. Support groups for pet loss are more common than you might think. These meetings often involve sharing memories of your pet, which can be a beautiful way to honor them.

Here’s a little rundown of why reaching out matters:

  • Sharing Feels Good: Opening up eases the burden of grief.
  • Understanding and Empathy: Connecting with others who have gone through the same experience provides comfort.
  • Professional Insights: Therapists offer effective coping mechanisms.
  • Collective Healing: Group settings can accelerate the healing process.

Losing a pet is a profound experience that changes us. While the grief can be overwhelming, remember seeking support can shine a light through the darkest times. Whether it’s through friends, online communities, professionals, or support groups, you don’t have to face this journey alone.

Establish a Routine

Losing a furry friend isn’t just an event; it’s an upheaval. Suddenly, everything changes – the silence is louder, the house emptier. But amidst this storm of emotions, I’ve found solace in something surprisingly simple: establishing a routine.

After my dog passed away, the days felt aimless. Our daily walks, playtime, and even meal schedules vanished into thin air. That’s when I realized the power of routine – not just for me but also in honoring my late buddy’s memory.

Creating a New Normal

Starting fresh didn’t mean forgetting. It meant weaving my dog’s memory into my daily life while finding structure in the chaos. Here’s what helped:

  • Maintaining regular waking times: Sticking to my usual wake-up time, as if I still had that eager nose nudging me awake.
  • Dedicated walk times: I kept our walk schedule. Sometimes, I’d wander the routes we used to take, other times exploring new paths, reflecting on our adventures.
  • Scheduled meal times: Eating at our regular times, even setting an extra place at the table on tough days.
  • Finding new rituals: Introducing new activities into my routine, like volunteering at a local animal shelter, gave me a sense of purpose and connection to my dog’s loving spirit.

The Importance of Structure

The predictability of a routine also brings a comforting structure, making the overwhelming waves of grief a bit more navigable.

For me, every step taken on our walks, every mealtime, became a moment to remember, to smile, to maybe shed a tear, but also to heal. It didn’t erase the pain, but it made it bearable, transforming it into something I could carry with me, infused with fond memories rather than just an acute sense of loss.

Practice Self-Care

The pain can feel overwhelming, but amidst this storm of emotions, it’s crucial to focus on self-care. This doesn’t just help you navigate your grief; it also honors the memory of your beloved dog by ensuring you’re at your best to remember them fondly.

Establish a Healthy Routine

Once my dog passed away, the silence in my home felt deafening. My mornings, once filled with joyful barks and wagging tails, suddenly turned quiet. I realized the importance of crafting a new routine to foster a sense of normalcy. Here’s what worked for me:

  • Wake Up at A Consistent Time: Even on days when the bed feels extra comforting, getting up at my usual time helps.
  • Maintain Physical Activity: Whether it’s a short walk or a yoga session, moving my body helps release built-up tension.
  • Eat Nutritious Meals: It’s easy to neglect diet, but nutritious food is fuel for both body and soul.

Find Solace in Creativity

Creating a tribute for my dog helped me channel my grief into something tangible. It was therapeutic, providing a creative outlet for my emotions. Here’s how I did it:

  • Photo Album: Compiling a photo album of my favorite moments with my dog.
  • Writing: Penning down my thoughts and memories in a journal.
  • Art: Painting a picture that captured my dog’s spirit.

Reach Out for Support

Isolation can amplify the pains of pet loss. I found solace in shared experiences, understanding that I wasn’t alone in my journey. Here’s how I connected with support:

  • Friends and Family: Simply talking about my dog with loved ones who understand my loss.
  • Support Groups: Joining pet loss support groups, both in-person and online.
  • Professional Help: When the grief felt insurmountable, I sought the guidance of a therapist specialized in pet loss.

Each step, though small, played a part in healing my heart. These actions didn’t erase the pain, but they helped me forge a path through it, keeping the memory of my dog alive in a way that felt right to me.


I’ve found that embracing self-care, sticking to a routine, and finding creative outlets not only help in honoring our beloved pet’s memory but also in exploring through our own healing process. It’s crucial to lean on our support networks during these times. Whether it’s friends, family, or professionals, having someone to share your feelings with can make a world of difference. Let’s keep our cherished pets’ memories alive in our hearts, and take it one day at a time. Healing is a journey, and we’re in this together.


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