Grieving the Death of Your Dog

Dogs are incredible sources of unconditional love and support. When we finish up a tough day at work, they listen to us intently and comfort us with their presence and puppy snuggles.

The value that dogs add to our lives is hard to replicate. After all, we spend more time with our pets than other people. The grief that is felt after the death of a dog is very real.

What Does Grief Over the Death of A Dog Look Like?

Grief after the death of a dog can feel similar to the grief we feel following the death of a person or any other significant loss. You can  have difficulty concentrating, periods of sadness or tearfulness, changes in appetite and sleep, or even episodes of irritability.

Grieving demands a lot of emotional, mental, and physical energy from you, so it is common to feel exhausted after the death of your dog.

One major difference between the death of a pet and the death of a person is how others respond to the loss. Typically after the death of a person, it’s normal to receive support and acknowledgement from your family, friends, workplace, and community.  

That may not be the case with the death of a dog. Some people may just say, “it was just a pet,” or dismiss your grief. You may feel alone in your grief because others don’t treat what you are going through as a “real” loss. But remember that the emotions you are feeling after the death of your dog are valid and normal.

What to Do With the Body After the Death of Your Dog

After your dog’s death, your veterinarian can assist you with next steps regarding a potential cremation or burial. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed after the death of your dog, but if you can, try to take some time to think through your options. What final arrangements would feel meaningful to you?

Consider reaching out and talking your options through with a supportive friend. Having a burial or memorial can be a powerful way to say goodbye and process the loss of your dog.

Taking Care of Yourself While Grieving Your Dog

Grieving a dog can be tough for anyone. When trying to figure out what to do after the death of your pet, It can be beneficial to focus on the basics of self-care immediately. As a reminder, grief tends to take an emotional, mental, and physical toll on the griever. Try to take care of your physical self by:

  • Drinking water and staying hydrated
  • Eating regular meals
  • Moving your body in ways that feel soothing, like going for walks or yoga
  • Prioritizing sleep and rest
  • Avoiding alcohol and other mood-altering substances

In addition, seek out support from helpful friends or family members. Try to think about what helps you most, and be sure to ask that of your support network. Having company when going to receive your dog’s ashes or asking someone to bring over some food can be a relief during your moment of need. Most people want to be helpful, but are not sure how. If there is an option to delegate some tasks at work or at home, try to take some things off of your plate.

Just like grieving the death of a person, grieving a dog does not follow a specific timeline. The most benign things can trigger grief unexpectedly such as seeing pets at the park, or not being able to dress up your pup for your family’s annual holiday photo.

It’s also expected that your day-to-day routine will be upended after the death of your dog. For example, if you always woke up at a certain time to feed and walk your dog, you might want to put some thought into a new morning routine.  

Be patient with yourself as you adjust to life without your beloved pet. Change is always difficult, even in the best of times. If you think you could use some extra support during this time, consider finding a pet loss support group or grief coaching. There are people out there who understand what you are going through.

Going through grief can be like riding a rollercoaster. Find out how to slow the ride down and get off with a grief coach.

Honoring Your Dog’s Memory

Your relationship with your dog doesn’t have to end at death. There are many ways to honor your dog’s memory in your daily life, including:

  • Selecting a special a memorial stone or grave marker
  • Creating a memory box for some of your dog’s items like their collar
  • Putting together an album or scrapbook of treasured photos and memories
  • Making a donation in your pet’s honor to the local humane society
  • Planting a tree or memory garden
  • Spreading their ashes in a place that your pet loved
  • Creating a small shrine on a shelf or table with their ashes, a photo, and other treasured keepsakes
  • Asking an artist to paint or draw a portrait of your pet as a special keepsake

How to Handle Grief After the Loss of a Dog

Honoring your dog in a significant and personal way is crucial in terms of handling grief. Regardless of how you choose to do so, remembering your dog is a way to keep them in your heart in a meaningful way.

It might be difficult to imagine now, but someday you will be able to think about your pet and smile at the memories you shared.