Four coping strategies to heal after losing a dog Courtesy of Green Meadow Any death can be emotionally and mentally disruptive. However, we don’t always give the passing of our furry companions the same gravity as the loss of those humans that are close to us. Which is strange, given that our dogs are no less a part of our core family unit. The result of this is that we’re not always well prepared with mechanisms to assist the grieving process for our pets. By having just a few simple tactics in place, we can more effectively heal following the loss of a dog. We just need to approach the process with a similar sense of sensitivity and care as we would our human loved ones. 1. Acknowledge the pain Even if your dog has experienced a long illness, and you think you’re prepared for their passing, the loss can still be emotionally overwhelming. One of the worst things you can do following the death of a dog is try to ignore or suppress the pain you’re experiencing. Recognise and accept that your dog represented an important part of your life, and that their absence is going to affect you deeply. Don’t feel shame for needing to express this pain. Be kind to yourself, and take the time you need to cry, or rage, or just sit with that sadness. 2. Get talking It is an unfortunate fact that our society treats death as a taboo subject for conversation. Particularly when it comes to our pets, there’s a tendency for us to keep our thoughts to ourselves out of politeness, social contract, or to avoid feeling as though we’re a burden to others. Yet, by failing to talk about death, those thoughts of sadness and guilt — particularly in the case of euthanasia — just cycle around inside our heads, unresolved. You’ll often find that friends and family want you to talk about your loss; they want to be supportive. Not only that, but it gives them an opening to discuss their own grief. Take the time to sit down and talk in a relaxed setting. Remember, don’t just talk about the loss, talk about the good times too. 3. Direct your energy practically One of the most difficult issues after losing your dog is feeling at a loose end. We forget sometimes that their presence is constant, their noises and behaviours become a part of the atmosphere of our homes. When they pass away, the silence can feel terrible. You should certainly take time to feel that silence, and acknowledge it. However, you also need to apply yourself in ways that direct the energy of your grief. Tie up any unfinished business with your pet’s affairs — cancel insurance, make a plan for outstanding medical bills. Clean up any fur left on sofas or carpets, wash and vacuum the floors. Don’t worry, your home won’t immediately lose the scent of your beloved dog for some time; but these simple steps can take you closer to achieving some closure. 4. Create a memorial The death of your dog doesn’t have to mean they’re forever absent from your life. The time they spent with you will always be remembered with joy. Part of your coping strategy should be to create a fitting memorial for your beloved furry family member. Make it as personal as you can. Review some pet urns and select one that provides a sense of their personality, have it engraved with a message that sparks memories of joy. Select some meaningful objects — photographs, their food bowl, some well-worn toys — and create a display. Invite other friends and family members to add to it, and spark some conversations about the place your dog had in their lives. This isn’t a morbid or silly strategy, rather it is a demonstration of the love you feel for the dog that gifted you with their presence for a period of time. Conclusion The loss of a dog can be no less impactful than any other member of your family. In order to heal, it’s important to express your feelings and take actions that have positive outcomes. This isn’t about saying goodbye to your beloved companion, it’s about understanding and celebrating just how important they’ll always be to you.