Coping with the loss of your dog


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17 February 2014

Keep talking

Don't allow your feelings to bottle up inside. Keep talking to people about your dog; how you got him, the things you loved about him, the things that drove you mad, how much you miss him, and what it feels like to no longer have him with you. Choose friends who are sympathetic and avoid anyone who is likely to tell you to pull yourself together because you have ‘only lost a dog'. Your dog was a valued member of the family and you need to find people to talk to who can understand and appreciate that. Alternatively, write your feelings down in a diary or an online blog.

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Positive thinking

When you're feeling particularly down, keep telling yourself that these feelings will pass. In time all things do. One day in the future, for a few minutes, you will suddenly realise that you are smiling again. Don't feel guilty when that happens, but rather welcome it as a sign of your emotional recovery.

Making memories

There are many lovely ways to remember your pet. If you are creative you could paint a picture, write a poem or story, or sew a tapestry. If you don't feel up to this you could commission someone to do it for you. Consider putting together a scrapbook of memories - children will enjoy helping with this project. Other ways to remember your dog include planting a tree or shrub in the garden, buying a memorial plaque, or even investigating companies that can make diamond jewellery from his hair or ashes.

Seek help

Never be ashamed to seek professional help if you need to. Ask your GP for advice if you are suffering prolonged depression or anxiety. Alternatively, you can call the Pet Bereavement Support Service run by Blue Cross, which is manned by trained volunteers. You can ring the support service helpline on 0800 096 6606 (8.30am – 8.30pm) or email [email protected]

Go online

We all read horror stories about social media sites such as Facebook, but in reality they can also be a lifeline for people who are struggling to cope, particularly if they don't have many friends to talk to in real life. A quick search of Facebook sites reveals lots of pet loss bereavement groups available for people to share their loss, memories, and photographs. It can be incredibly helpful to talk to someone online who is going through the same experiences.

Find a place to go

It is comforting to have a place where you can sit quietly to contemplate times gone by. This might be your dog's burial place, or where that you scattered his ashes, or it might just be a favourite sunny spot in the garden. Alternatively, create a special tranquil corner in your home with a photograph, scented candle, and a vase of fresh flowers. When you feel the need to connect with your pet again simply sit quietly and allow yourself time for your emotions to settle.

Try something new

When you own a dog you have routines, such as walks, meals, and spending time together every day. The absence of this routine can leave you feeling empty and lonely, so try to fi ll the time with something new. Research shows that meditation can really help the grieving process so look at ways to include 10 minutes of this at the start and end of your day. A search on YouTube will provide you with many videos of excellent meditations that can help you to get started.

If you're missing your daily walks with your dog then look at doing something completely different for a while, such as swimming or taking up a new hobby.

Look to the future

Very gradually you will start to feel better. When you can think about your beloved dog without crying and the memories make you smile, it might be time to consider giving all the love in your heart to a new and very different dog. If that seems a step too far, then perhaps offer to walk someone else's dog during the day, sponsor a rescue dog, or volunteer at your local shelter. There are so many dogs out there who can benefit from all the love you gave to your former friend. You will know in your heart when the time is right.

If you prefer to put your feelings down on paper rather than talking or going online, you can write to Faithfully Yours, a free correspondence service run by a trained bereavement counsellor. Some people find it much easier to express their emotions in this way, and the service will continue to write back to you as long as you wish. Write to Olwen Parker, 15 St Oswald's Crescent, Billingham, Cleveland TS23 2RW.