Losing a dog is painful, end of story.
Over the years I’ve lost many dogs, like most lifelong dog owners.
Yet losing a dog is a natural part of owning a dog since our human lives are almost always much longer than the life of a dog.
I’ve concluded that when we learn how to overcome the loss of a dog, particularly as children, we are better prepared for the loss of beloved family members, usually parents, years later.
This is yet another gift our furry friends give us.
The death of my last dog occurred only 4 months after the loss of my mother.
So, even though I had lost several dogs previously, I had to work extra to overcome the loss of this dog, Tex, due to experiencing back to back losses.
In this post I’ll share:
- 3 strategies that helped me overcome the loss of my dogs over the years
- A beautiful poem about losing someone you love
- A technique I used to heal after losing my yellow Labrador, Tex
- Much more, all from my heart
(Please understand that you should seek professional advice if you need it to help you overcome the loss of your dog.)
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Why Is Losing Your Dog So Painful?
Your dog was most likely a loving and loyal companion for many years.
He was there when you left home, probably a little sad as you headed out the door.
And he was there when you got home, excited to see you.
Your dog was a major part of your life.
Your dog comforted you when you were sad, and now he’s not there to do that, making it even harder to overcome your loss.
When You Can’t Stop Crying Over Your Dog’s Death
I believe that it’s okay to cry over your dog’s death for a period.
You can allow yourself to feel the pain through crying. There is something emotionally liberating about saying to yourself:
“My dog died…
I’m sad about it…
And I’m going to feel sad and cry about it until I’m ready to stop.”
During such times, I find it helpful to say to my sadness “I feel you and sadness is okay”.
Doing this relieves me of the guilt or concern that I shouldn’t be sad.
And crying is a natural expression of sadness.
Realize It’s Okay To Overcome the Loss of Your Dog
How did you feel when you read the title of this post: How to Overcome the Loss of a Dog?
Did you sense at least a tiny amount of wrongness about even trying to overcome the loss of your dog?
After losing multiple dogs and now, even both parents, I’ve discovered there is a wrongness about overcoming the loss of a beloved, whether human or dog.
It feels like we’re saying to ourselves “You weren’t significant enough for me to keep feeling sad for a longer time.”
Here’s a little human loss story that I think might help you overcome the loss of your dog.
One morning at the breakfast table, my father told me one of the most valuable things he ever said to me (and he said many):
“When I’m gone, I don’t want you to be sad.”
This helped me grieve his loss more than you can imagine; my father gave me permission to move on.
And if you think about it, we don’t want the people we love to be sad when we depart this earth.
How can we apply this to overcoming the loss of a dog?
If our dogs want anything for us, it’s for us to be happy.
Even though your pup couldn’t say those words to you like my dad did to me, we know it’s what your pooch would have wanted if she could have spoken in words.
So, give yourself permission to overcome the loss of your dog just like my dad gave me permission.
It okay to stop being sad when it’s time to stop being sad.
And since being happy is better than being sad, and this is what your dog would want, sooner is probably better than later.
How Long Is Normal To Feel Sad About Losing a Dog?
Here’s what the research shows on how long it takes to overcome the loss of a dog:
Acute grief symptoms can last one to two months but less severe grief symptoms can persist up to a year on average according to Scientific American.
Here’s something really big I realized in my fifties, however, that helped me shorten grieving time:
We get to choose how we feel.
Now, I’m obviously not the next Buddha, so living out this epiphany is a lifelong pursuit.
But it sure has helped me overcome the loss of my beloved dog and family members, as well as handling many other very difficult situations.
My Own Process to Overcome the Loss of a Dog
Here is my to process to return to happiness after losing a dog or experiencing other losses.
First, I acknowledge and allow my sadness for a period of time as previously written.
And I’ve also accepted that my dog wants me to be happy.
This sounds sort of crazy, but when I’m ready I just decide to be happy instead of sad.
There are a few tricks that help me accomplish this transition.
How To Overcome the Loss of Your Dog Strategy #1
The easiest way for me to stop feeling so sad over the loss of my dog is to think about what I’m grateful for.
In this case, I immediately shift from sadness to feeling grateful for anything related to the life of my dog. Examples might include:
- A long happy life my dog had
- The time I got to spend with my dog
- My dog passed without a lot of pain
- My dog was healthy for many years
- Wonderful memories of my dog
- Photographs of my dog
Think happy thoughts, and then notice how you feel.
Allow and acknowledge feeling good.
Overcoming the Loss of Your Dog Strategy #2
I’ve also used this solution to overcome the loss of my dog, or any other loss.
Dr. David Hawkins created a wonderful chart that lists all 17 human emotions ranging from shame at the very bottom to enlightenment at the very top.
The reality is that sometimes it’s just too hard to move from being sad (grief on the chart) to being happy (peace on the chart).
That’s a big jump, admittedly.
But that’s okay; we can make a gradual move.
That move might be from crying all the time with utter and complete sadness to allowing yourself the courage to accept the loss of your dog.
To accomplish this, in my mind, I might say to myself:
Ok, I’m not ready to stop grieving, but I am ready to stop crying all the time.
So, I’m going to allow myself to stop crying all the time and (have the courage to) take the next step which will be still feeling sad but not crying anymore today.
This perspective helps me have the courage to take the next step toward ending grief.
In his wonderful book Letting Go, Dr. Hawkins writes if you can get to courage, you’ve made a big step because at the level of courage, you’ve shifted your energy from negative to positive.
That’s a big deal according to Dr. Hawkins’s work because once this happens, things start to get better.
Next you can gradually work your way up to happiness (which is “peace” on Dr. Hawkins’ chart) from courage.
(You can view Letting Go by Dr. Hawkins on my Amazon Storefront.)
How to Overcome the Loss of Your Dog Strategy #3
Envision your dog happy. (This also helps shift from sadness to happiness rather quickly.)
Most dogs owned as pets die of old age.
This was the case with my beloved Tex, a wonderful yellow Labrador Retriever.
Tex used to love to run full speed through the stream when we walked on the nearby trails.
This became increasingly hard as he grew older.
But somehow I think Tex is probably running full speed through those trails again.
So I just envision him running through the water full speed on a beautiful day.
This makes me happy, especially knowing that his body couldn’t do this activity he loved so much in the later years of his life.
Poem for Overcoming the loss of a dog
This beautiful poem was read at my father’s funeral.
I remembered at as I was writing this post and I’d like to share it with you now in the hope it may help you overcome the loss of your dog.
It seems particularly applicable for overcoming the loss of a dog given it’s references to nature, which my father also loved.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.
By Mary Elizabeth Frye
Overcoming the Loss of a Dog Summary
Losing a dog hurts. End of story.
It would delight me more than you could imagine if this post somehow helped you overcome the loss of your dog.
Scientific American – grief time frame after losing a dog, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-need-to-take-pet-loss-seriously/#:~:text=Symptoms%20of%20acute%20grief%20after,full%20year%20(on%20average).
Do Not Stand At my Grave and Weep poem: Mary Elizabeth Frye