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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

7 Tips for Emotionally Coping with the Loss of Your Dog

Dogs are often a beloved part of your family and grieving a pet is a sad experience that inevitably takes time. However impossible it may seem, you can learn to cope with the loss and adjust to life without your furry friend at your side.

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Develop an action plan

When you know that your dog’s health is in decline, it can help to make a plan. When my own dog, Seven, was experiencing increasing health problems, we stayed in close contact with our veterinarian. When pain medication failed to provide her with any relief, we knew the time to say goodbye had arrived. Since our vet was knowledgeable about our situation, he was able to make space for us in his busy schedule immediately.

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Say your goodbyes

When I knew Seven’s life was close to its end, I took her to a favorite park, indulged her with a few spoonfuls of ice cream, and kept her comfortable. Treating your dog to his or her favorite activities or foods can help provide closure. (Related: Learn the 50 secrets your pet won’t tell you.)

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iStock/Renato Arap

Accept a death has occurred

Know that grieving a pet takes time, be it weeks, months, or even years. You may catch yourself expecting your pup at the door when you get home, waking up in the middle of the night in a panic because you forgot to walk him before bed, or talking about your pet as if he’s still there. Know that all of these thoughts and behaviors are perfectly normal and will subside in time.

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Allow yourself to grieve your pet

When you grieve the loss of your beloved pet, you grieve many losses simultaneously, suggests Psych Central. A dog provides unconditional love and might fill the role of a friend, listener, companion, or comforter. Allow yourself to feel the myriad of emotions that follows the loss of your pet without judgment. If you feel the pain is too overwhelming, consider a grief counselor. Your pain and sorrow are real, and there’s support available to you if you need it.

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Don’t grieve your pet in silence

Friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even acquaintances may all express sympathy over the loss of a dog. Sharing your pain with others can help to validate it and can be very therapeutic.

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iStock/Christopher Stokey

Slowly remove your pet’s items from the house

At first, it might seem disloyal to remove your pet’s possessions from your house. However, embarking on this process on your own time will aid you, your family, and other pets during this life transition. If you don’t feel ready to clear out the items, start by moving your dog’s toys and leash to one area of the house. Then in a few weeks, see what might be able to be re-used or donated and toss the rest.

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iStock/Joshua Hodge Photography

Commemorate your pet’s life

There are a variety of ways to celebrate the happiness your pet provided you. You can create a scrapbook, plant a tree, hold a memorial ceremony, and make a donation to an animal rescue group or other pet charity in your pet’s name.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest