“My dog died and I can’t get over it,” she said. “How do I overcome this pain and feel normal again?”
The truth is that you never ‘get over it’ after you lose your dog. Your heart, soul, and spirit have experienced the unconditional and amazing love of a dog – and you’ll never be the same. Your dog’s paw prints are on your heart, and will stay there forever.
While you can’t overcome the pain and grief of your dog’s death, you can heal your heart. You’ll always remember how much you loved your dog, and you’ll eventually start to remember your furry friend with fondness and nostalgia instead of the sharp pain of grief. You won’t erase your dog’s paw prints on your heart, but you will start to feel more like your normal self again.
“I know it’s time to say goodbye to my dog but I also know that when my last dog died, I couldn’t get over it,” said Marie on How to Know When to Put Your Dog Down. “I have to take my dog to the vet and let her go but it hurts too much. I can’t do it alone. I’m single and my best friend said she’d help me say goodbye. Her dog died last year and she knows how hard it is.”
In this article, I share the reasons why you’re having such a hard time getting over your dog’s death. Often when we understand the rational reasons for our grief and pain, we start moving towards healing – almost without being aware of it.
Why You Can’t Get Over Your Dog’s Death
“The animals in my life represent my most intense and valued of relationships,” says Sid Korpi, animal chaplain and author of Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss: Personal and Professional Insights on the Animal Lover’s Unique Grieving Process. “I come from a human family fraught with conflict, addictions, and abuse. Over the years, I’ve pruned away the most toxic of those relationships, but through it all, I’ve had the purest love and devotion I could desire from my pets.”
Your dog is part of who are — and that’s why you hurt so much. Your dog isn’t just part of your life, your daily routine, and your heart…your dog is also part of your soul and spirit. The loss of your dog means that a huge part of your life is also over. A chapter of your life has ended, and you’re forced to move forward into a new season of life.
When you learn why you feel like you can’t get over it when your dog died, your heart will start to heal.
Your dog is part of your family
Another reason your dog’s death hurts so much is because pets are our “families of choice.” Your dog was always thrilled to be with you, giving you emotional support and a comforting physical presence. Your relationship with your dog was more simple and pure than any other, and you learned the meaning of “unconditional love.”
Unconditional love is the glue that bonds us to our dogs. However, there are several other reasons why our beloved pets are so deeply embedded in our lives, hearts, minds, spirits, and souls. Learning why your dog means so much to you — and why your heart is shattered — will help you heal and let go of the pain.
If you’re coping with guilt over your dog’s death, you may find yourself struggling with the repeated thought, “My dog died and I can’t get over it.” Guilt makes the process of healing your heart longer and more complicated because it’s an additional pain to work through.
Dogs are consistent and reliable
Unlike our relationships with our partners, kids, family members, friends, and colleagues, our pets don’t change. They’re consistent. Dogs never grow up, leave the nest, get married, pursue a career, or make decisions that impact us negatively or positively. Our pets don’t do anything that isn’t filtered through us first – they often don’t even go outside without our say-so! We’re responsible for our dogs’ daily routines and schedule…and we’re responsible for their lives. Our dogs trust and depend on us in a way that way nobody else does.
Dogs are part of our daily routine
“Animal companions weave themselves into the fabric of our daily lives,” says Marty Tousley, a certified grief counselor and author of The Final Farewell: Preparing for and Mourning the Loss of Your Pet. “We live and relax in each other’s company. They’re there when we awaken in the morning, rely on us to toilet, feed, water, exercise, groom and play with them, greet us joyfully when we come home to them and may even sleep with us in our beds at night. We touch them, stroke them, pet them, hug them, kiss them, tell them our troubles and share our deepest secrets with them.”
After your dog died, your heart takes a long time to heal because everywhere you look..you see your dog.
Dogs offer unconditional love
Our dogs love us no matter how we look, smell, or behave! We make mistakes, say the wrong thing at the wrong time, go in the wrong direction, pass gas, accidentally hurt people we love…and our dogs love us through it all.
They don’t even notice our mistakes, weaknesses, and flaws — much less judge, criticize, or condemn us. We can’t misinterpret their words or actions. With dogs, “what you see is what you get.”
“With their constant presence, availability and devotion, pets are our best source of unconditional love, becoming for many of us the ideal child, parent, mate or friend,” says Marty. Our dogs listen without judgment or reproach, and never give advice. They accept us exactly as we are. They forgive us readily and never hold grudges. No matter how much change we must endure in our lives, our dogs are always there for us.
Dogs allow us to be authentic and real
“We are ourselves with our pets as we are with no one else,” writes Gary Kurz in Cold Noses At The Pearly Gates: A Book of Hope for Those Who Have Lost a Pet. “We let our hair down, so to speak. Even a cherished spouse will make us aware of our faults and try to help us change. Not so our pets.
Dogs accept us on an ‘as is’ basis. They don’t care if we smoke. They don’t care if we have a job. They will snuggle as closely to us when we haven’t bathed in a week as they would if we were still wet from the shower. Dogs don’t ask questions.”
For these reasons — and more, depending on your unique relationship with your dog — it’s so hard to get over it after your dog died. Feelings of guilt and regret can cause additional pain and impede the healing process.
Keep in mind that even the most emotionally and spiritually healthy people feel deep grief and even guilt, and that the aftershocks of your dog’s death can last a long time. Don’t push yourself to heal; allow yourself to process your grief in your own way.
Help Coping When Your Dog Dies
Your current feelings of pain, regret, and guilt are normal — but they will get worse unless you deal with them. You’ll find yourself stuck in a downward spiral of depression and self-loathing! I know, because it happened to me. I was trapped in grief and guilt, and it was hard to pull myself out.
I wrote Farewell, Friend: A Gentle Guide to Saying Goodbye to Your Dog to share how I grieved my dog’s death and let go of my guilt. I even opened my heart and home, and welcomed two new dogs into my life! This ebook will heal your heart, comfort your soul, and lift your spirits.
Each section contains 5 chapters of fresh insights, suggestions, and activities – all focused on helping you let go and heal.
How are you feeling? I know it’s not easy – and a blog post about healing your heart after losing your dog won’t make the pain go away. I hope it helps you to know you’re not alone.
May you find healing and hope, and may you find your spirits beginning to lift as you learn to live without your dog. May you find comfort in the warmth of Jesus and the strength of God…and may you know that He is walking with you throughout this whole experience.
May the pain of your dog’s death fade away, and the paw prints on your heart remain.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.
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