In case you hadn’t seen on social media or read my tribute to Rory post from last week, in July we lost our precious dog and furry best friend. This was my first foray into pet grief, having not had a significant pet that has been a big part of my life before I haven’t had much experience with coping with the loss of a pet.
Just for reference, the photos in this post are not of Rory as I wanted to keep this post more neutral
I’d had a dog when I was a kid but she died when I was only around 5, so naturally, I don’t remember her much. Rory was a different story, having had him since I was around 18. I’m 30 now, he died a few months before I turned 30. So I spent my entire 20’s with him, a whole decade.
That’s a long time and naturally spending that much time with a pet – day after day – and losing them is going to bring a whole lot of grief with it. Adjusting to your pet getting older and coping with the loss of a pet is never easy. Made harder by that select group of people that claim “it’s just a pet / it’s just a dog / it’s just a cat”. Which, any pet owner will know, is absolute rubbish.
Despite this being my first experience with losing a pet, I feel like I’ve handled it with a lot of grace and level-headedness.
Of course there is NO right or wrong way to grieve a pet; all emotions are perfectly normal. Some people are able to get on with their lives after the loss of a pet quite quickly, others feel that absence much deeper. Neither is the “right” way to grieve for a pet. What an utterly ridiculous notion.
But I’m just stating from my own experience, I feel like how I handled it and what I did after he died really helped me in the grieving process. Which is why I wanted to share my own tips for coping with the loss of a pet with you today.
Obviously I just want to state before we go into the tips that these are things that worked for ME. They won’t work for everyone. If you’re struggling with coping with the loss of a pet and really don’t know where to turn or what to do, some of these tips might be beneficial for you.
7 Tips To Help You When Coping With the Loss of a Pet:
Continue to make them part of your surroundings
Rory had his own box in the cupboard which contained all of his food, leads, bowl etc. He also – like many dogs – had a dedicated space for his bed. In our case, it was in the living room. After he died, I went through all his stuff but kept the box in the cupboard with the things of his we wanted to keep.
The box is still there now. It’s still “his” cupboard, with his box. Similarly, the space where his bed used to be now contains a new table with a photo of him on it along with his ashes and a candle. I felt like this was a great way to keep him part of our house and part of our surroundings.
Find an appropriate way to memorialize them
Like I just mentioned, we’ve memorialized Rory by keeping his ashes and placing them in a sweet little urn which we keep on the table in the living room. We also have a nice photo of him, the blanket he always slept on, some of his tail hair that the vet kindly cut for us and a USB of photos I’ve gathered from the past decade.
Memorializing your pet and making a point of marking their life can be really helpful. It can be helpful in acknowledging what a big part of your life they were, along with acknowledging closure that yes, they are gone from your life but they’ll always hold a special place in your heart.
For memorialization, you might want to consider:
- Keeping the ashes and placing them in an urn
- Scattering the ashes (or part of the ashes) somewhere that they liked to go
- Using ashes or hair to be made into pieces of jewelry
- Planting a tree or a flower in the garden with a remembrance plaque
- Getting a pet portrait commissioned of your pet
Practice self care in abundance
At any time in your life where things feel heavy and you’re in need of some emotional support, practicing self care should always be your number one priority and the same goes for coping with the loss of a pet. You’re going to feel extremely mentally fragile, probably physical and emotionally exhausted and drained from the events of losing a pet.
This might be a good time to take a few days off work, if you’re able. Cutting down your to-do list and prioritizing tasks as to not overwhelm yourself. Cancelling some plans you don’t *really* want. And just generally taking time to tend to your needs as they arise. Because they will come in waves.
Talk to people or seek additional help
When Rory died, one thing that helped me TREMENDOUSLY was talking. Even having a conversation with the vet who put him down made me feel a little better. I thought talking about it would just make me feel worse but it had the complete opposite effect. I know people always say to talk about things that are troubling you – they really do have a point.
You might find solace with people online, perhaps someone who’s going through the same thing. Friends, family, neighbors or even seeking professional help if you’re REALLY struggling with coping with the loss of a pet. The Samaritans might be a good option, to just get things off your chest. Or counselling / grief support groups.
Consider donating items as a way to do something good from the situation
There’s nothing good about losing a pet. That much is obvious. But I personally believe that you can DO good from almost any situation. For us, I decided to donate some of his things (unopened food, unused toys, an almost-new bed) to Dogs Trust, with the knowledge that their dogs needed it more than we did.
And given that these dogs were in a re-homing center and we were able to give Rory 11 and a half long, loving years of cuddles, food and safety, it was the least I could do for dogs which aren’t as fortune as he was.
If the death occurred by euthanasia, remember that you did the most loving thing
More often than not, the decision is taken for euthanasia to take place on a pet that is old, due to illness which isn’t going to improve. Of course nobody wants to think about this and on the surface, it can seem like the WORST thing in the world. But what helped me, was reminding myself that it was the kindest thing we could have done.
One final act of love for the dog that gave us so many years of smiles and laugher.
Collate photos or videos and keep them in a safe space
And finally, having photos and videos of your beloved pet on hand can be a great thing for when you miss them and want to be reminded of their cute face, their funny noises or their weird quirks. I collated all the photos I had (yes, from 11 years) and put them all on one USB stick, which is available to anyone who wants it.
It’s important to remember and to note that everyone’s experience with grief when coping with the loss of a pet is different. This might depend on the amount of time you had your pet, the amount of time you spent with your pet, whether you lived alone with your pet and many other factors.
As I’ve already mentioned, there’s no right or wrong way to mourn a pet. It’s a terrible, heart-breaking loss and it’ll never be easy. But it will be unique to YOU. All these tips I’ve mentioned helped me in some small (or big) way and I hope that for anyone else struggling, you might be able to find solace in at least one of these.
this post was much needed. This month, my orange tabby of 15 years passed away. He was such a special family member. A pets love is so unconditional and a blessing.
I’m so sorry for your loss 💛
I am so sorry about Rory! I cried while reading this as it brought back so many memories. I had a similar situation with our first dog, but I was so glad i stayed with her until the end. Keeping their things around as well as talking, can be so so helpful! x
Thank you 🙂 I’m sorry you went through something similar, it’s so hard. But I’m SO glad I stayed until the end – I don’t think I would have forgiven myself if I didn’t.
Awe I am so so sorry for your loss of Rory. Losing a pet is so very hard. They are just like a member of the family. Thanks so much for sharing all these ways to cope when going through it though!
Thank you x
Thank you for this post, we recently lost our beautiful boerboel to heart disease 2 weeks ago. I still expect to see his cheerful face when I get home…he was the most affectionate and sweet dog, despite his huge size. I’m sorry for your loss, I definitely understand
Ah I’m so sorry for your loss as well. It’s so hard; I totally understand that as well, expecting to see his face when I get home.
Really sorry about Rory! It can be so hard to lose a pet. I have lost several pets and it is so hard and I just remember that they are no longer in pain. Although one of my dogs died whilst I went to the doctors and he had a heart attack or something and died instantly. So that was a hard one as we really were not expecting it. You have shared some helpful tips. Thank you and I hope you are doing okay.
Oh wow I bet that was really difficult. At least in most instances with pets you do have some time to say goodbye xx
I’m so sorry for your loss. I agree that if someone has to put a pet down, it’s important to remind yourself that you did something loving. That can help you cope as you know you helped your pet end their suffering.
Oh absolutely, especially when your vet tells you it’s the right thing to do at that time. That clarification from the professional really helps.
Losing a beloved pet is so difficult; they are 100% a part of the family and it can be devastating to lose them. Your post is so lovely and will no doubt help someone currently going through this. I haven’t had a per since my darling Border Collie Jessie; she was extraordinary and I still think about her even though it’s been 20 years!
Oh wow, they really never leave you, do they? Thank you so much.
Ah Jenny, this was a lovely read. We had Jester for 16 years and having him put to sleep 3 years ago was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I still miss him now, but we have a stone slab marking where he’s buried in our garden, in one of his favourite spots, where I can go and talk to him and imaging him purring. I’m glad you can treasure your good memories of Rory, and these tips will be very helpful to anyone who goes through a similar bereavement, I’m sure xx
Awh that’s lovely that you have that special place to go to to remember him 💛
Loosing a pet can be so painful. I’ve lost two dogs when I was little and although it did affect me I was young so I coped with it differently. I now also have two dogs and one of them is pretty old and sick. I’m slowly preparing myself for the worst.
Yeah when you’re younger you definitely deal with it differently. I’m sorry to hear about your dog now. Treasure the time you have with them.
I understand that it’s very difficult, but never experienced it before. Thank you so much for sharing these tips. I will keep them in mind.
It’s definitely an awful thing to experience.
Thank you so much. I really needed this. I just lost my Scruffy last Tuesday. It has been terrible. I had lost another old girl who was fifteen in July. So very sad times. I know exactly what you are going through.
Oh I’m so sorry to hear that. My parents had a dog called Scruffy before I was born! I hope you can take some comfort from these tips.
Its heartbreaking losing a pet and the grief can knock you sideways, same as with humans. But remembering then, ralking about them, to them, keeping reminders and keepsakes all help. Its a process we myst go through. Its the price of love… I lost my dog 3 years ago and still think of him and miss him. Sometimes i think i can smell him, even though i hsve since moved house and changed my car. I still feel he’s with me. I thank him for the memories and his loyalty…
Wow that’s amazing that you still get wafts of him. And that’s a nice thought, that he might still be with you. It really is such a difficult thing.
I’m so sorry once again Jenny! These are all wonderful tips! I worry with Willow, when the time comes how we’ll all cope – Especially with the girls. Dogs are 100% part of the family and have such a big impact on our home and hearts. X
You’ll figure it out, I think children can be more resilient than you think but it’ll for sure be difficult to know how / what to say, especially to your oldest. I know you’ll handle it amazingly though when the time does come.
Oh Jenny, I’m crying. This post could not have come at a better time for me. We received the horrible news about my pet cat yesterday. I’ve had her since I was in school. 15 years and this Thursday we have to say goodbye 🙁 I haven’t stopped crying and finding it really hard to process. Thank you for this helpful post.
Sending you love and I’m so sorry for your loss 💔
Oh Soffy I am so sorry to hear that news. She’s lived a long and wonderful life, so please take comfort in that and that you’re doing the right thing. If you need to chat, you know where I am. Will be thinking of you this Thursday 💛