How to deal with Dog Loss
How to deal with Dog Loss. How do I get over losing my dog? A lovely lady asked me this question last week, and people ask me this question a lot. In my head I think you can’t ‘get over’ losing your dog. Grief isn’t something that you can ‘get over’.
But I didn’t say to her ‘you won’t get over the loss’. I asked her what was he (it was a male dog in this lady’s case) like? Was he a fussy eater? Where did you like to walk with him? I asked her questions about her dog. She talked, and cried a little, about her relationship with this wonderful chap. She sent me the most beautiful photo of him.
The Stages of Grief
I have experienced the loss of my dog – Tommy our beautiful Whippet/Terrier rescue dog. I have spoken to countless customers. And I have read/listened/watched so many books, podcasts, TEDtalks, films and videos about grief but I still don’ have any solutions. I can’t even remember where I read it but the best thing I have ever heard about about loss is:
Grief is like a hole in the ground, it doesn’t disappear you just learn how to walk around it without falling in every time.
I think a lot of the work around grief stages is helpful, it is useful to know that denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are all part of the mix. What I don’t find helpful is that it can make people feel that their bereavement journey will be a straight path where one stage naturally follows another. I think grief is much more complicated than that. You can pass through all 5 Kubler-Ross stages in an afternoon. Grief will depend on the time of day, the relationship with your animal, your age, your stress levels, your hormones….the list is endless.
Permission to Grieve
In my experience I think that there are two key factors that are missing from this model of grief that are actually quite powerful in your pet loss journey. Firstly it is permission to grieve. Some people don’t get it. That is fine, if they have never had that bond then we cannot be cross with them. Hopefully at some point in their life they will have a relationship with an animal that brings them that joy. But their opinion shouldn’t stop you from allowing yourself to grieve. If you need permission to grieve I give it to you now.
Physiological Impact of Grief
I think grief can be like a sledgehammer to our bodies. There is a lot of focus on the emotional side of grief – quite rightly. But there is much we can do to soften the blow of grief by taking care of ourselves. It may be the very last thing that you want to do when you are suffering from loss but it is the most important thing to do. You must get outside and get some fresh air. Staying cooped up inside will make you feel worse. Being outside, especially somewhere with trees, open space or water will help to nurture you. A good hot bath before you go to bed will improve your sleep making tomorrow easier to handle. Making sure that you eat well, even if you have lost your appetite will fend off some of the despair.
Pet Bereavement Guide
That is why I write about practical things you can do to look after yourself whilst you travel this difficult journey. It won’t bring them back. It’s not a magic wand that will stop the hurt. But by taking care of yourself you will walk this road with a little more ease and be strong enough to face the twists and turns that you will need to navigate.
To see more articles about coping with the loss of your pet go here.
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