We spend decades of our lives with our canine companions. They become a key part of our family to the point where we actually consider them family members. Yet, when our dogs reach the end of their lives and go over the rainbow bridge – many people just don’t get just how painful and soul destroying it really is.
Humans find it hard enough to talk about grief in general. We’re not always that good at knowing what to do or say when someone loses a close friend or family member. And it’s the same when people lose their dogs, except many friends don’t have much sympathy. If you’ve not owned or loved a dog or even a pet, then you just won’t be able to relate to how special the bond is – or how heartbreaking it is when that bond is broken.
The truth is, a lot of dog owners suffer in silence. They feel this overwhelming sense of sadness and loss, yet they just don’t talk to anyone about it.
There should be more support around canine grief
We don’t know about you, but we feel that there’s not enough support for owners who are suffering the loss of their dog. A lot of people who have owned a dog for the first time are shocked by just how much losing their dog affects them. And when your pooch is well and healthy, you allow yourself to get so close to them, that your poor heart shatters into a million pieces when they leave you.
Perhaps it’s time to talk about canine grief more and maybe even study how it compares to other forms of grief. It’s likely that we mourn in a similar way to when we lose human lives, and we probably go through a similar grieving process too. When we lose a human family member, society gives you the time to grieve and respects what a tough time you’re going through – but sadly people aren’t given the same respect when it comes to losing their beloved dog. And a lot of people end up feeling alienated and guilty for feeling so bad when this happens.
There are things you can do to help process your grief when your pooch passes. You can do something special for them such as put a picture up in your home, go on a special walk in their honour or have a sort of ‘service’ for them with your family at home.
The worst thing you can do is sweep your feelings under the carpet and pretend nothing has happened. Don’t beat yourself up over how bad you are feeling about losing your pet – so many other people react just as badly. Dogs have been our best friends for so long now, that we forget that they aren’t like us and they are animals. We treat them as our own, and see them as an enormous part of our human family.
Leaning on other dog owners
Remember, you can always lean on other dog owners. Don’t go to friends who have never had a dog as they are unlikely to understand what you are going through. Perhaps chat to a friend who has lost a dog before, they might be able to give you some wise advice. Anyone who has lost a dog gets how hard it is to say goodbye and carry on without them.
They know how it feels to go home to an empty house and how strange it is to not have your dog greet you every time you come home. Our pooches are so firmly embedded in our daily routine that it’s no wonder we feel lost when they’re not around.
We get used to walking them every single day, and when that stops we can feel completely thrown. Some owners find it useful when their dog passes to meet up with friend who have dogs and go on walks with them so they can still be around canine company.
Where can you get the help you need?
So where can you get the help you need? If you find yourself suffering really badly when your dog dies, there are some options. One option would be to see a counsellor and talk to them about how you’re feeling. There’s no shame in doing this, and no reason why you shouldn’t.
If this sounds a bit too scary, then the try and find the strength to talk to your family members or a friend about how you are feeling. It will help to just get it off your chest.
There are also canine grief forums online where you can chat to other pet owners in the same situation. A lot of people find this helpful because they can just type what they are feeling anonymously, rather than having to talk in person. There’s no right way to do things, it just depends on what works best for you.
Some websites provide handy canine grief guides. We’ve actually put together a helpful canine grief guide. Check it out here for more info. Here’s an interesting article by Psychology Today on why grieving the loss of a dog can be really tough.
Did you know that charities like the Blue Cross offer pet loss bereavement counselling and help? Check out their website here for more info. There is a number you can call to talk to someone. Don’t be afraid to talk – it may seem daunting at first but it just might give you the support you need. And if you call the Blue Cross number you can talk to someone over the phone which is sometimes easier.
Don’t be afraid to voice how hurt you are and find the help you need to get through your grief. Help is out there, you just need to reach for it.