Coping with grief after your dog is gone: 5 stages of grief and mourning

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The 5 Stages of Grief and Mourning

1) Denial and inability to grasp the fact.  It is common for our first reaction to learning of the death or terminal illness of a pet to be denial and inability to grasp the fact. We feel stunned, bewildered and dazed. This is a normal reaction, which is often called shock. Shock is temporary but it gets us through the initial weeks.

2) Anger  Anger and looking for objects to be angry at, often occurs subsequent to the initial shock of pet loss. We may lash out at friends and family or, more frequently, at ourselves. It is common for us to feel guilty and sometimes, the veterinarian who tended to our pets become the object of this anger. Other times it is self-directed or directed at other members of the family. The best way to get over this anger phase is through talk and conversation.

3) Denial or Bargaining Denial or bargaining is another method we use for coping with pet loss. We may search for miracle cures to incurable diseases or seek out second opinions from a different veterinarian. We think of all the things we would do or not due if only the pet would get better.

4) Depression  Depression is the longest portion of grief and mourning. We are sad, hopeless and helpless and we are regretful. We think about our lost pet constantly and we wish we had done things differently.

5) Acceptance and Healing  If we are fortunate, we eventually reach the stage of acceptance and healing. We treasure the time we had with our pet and lapse into a period of calm and tranquility– if not happiness. We develop a new lifestyle in which other things substitute for the relationship we had with out pet. This is the time we might look for another furry friend.

Here Are Some Things You Can Do To Hasten Acceptance And Healing:

Give yourself permission to grieve. Accept that you were very close to your pet and recognize how much the pet meant to you. Place a memorial plaque to your pet in a favorite spot. This allows you to pay tribute to the pet that meant so much to you. Try to get plenty of rest, eat well and exercise. Surround yourself with positive friends who understand your loss and let them share your burden. Treat yourself to pleasurable activities. Be patient. Recognize that you will have relapses of grief and sadness. Remember that grief will pass and life will be pleasant again. Don’t be afraid to lean on friends and pet loss support groups.

The degree and depth of your mourning process depends on your own personality as well as outside factors. Your age, how the pet died and the closeness of your relationship all play a part in the feeling you experience. Children are more resilient than adults and usually recover first. Older people have the most difficult time accepting the loss of a pet.

Interested in learning how to explain the loss of a dog to your children?  Read part 3 of Coping with grief after your dog is gone.

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