A cat or dog dying isn’t just “pet loss.” You’re living in an empty home, you’re missing your best friend, and you may be wondering if you’re normal because you feel like you can’t cope with the grief. Here, you’ll find hope and help getting through the pain of pet loss. These tips are inspired by a gentleman who shared his experience of his cat dying…
“I have just lost my best friend,” says Gordon on How to Cope With Your Pet’s Death – A Veterinarian’s Help. “Missy had a heart murmur and had been treated over the last few years. Recently she had a very bad cough and we took her to the veterinarian. He gave her two injections for lung congestion and her heart murmur. Early the next day the same cough started again so I brought her back to the vet….He put her into an oxygen tent and advised me to phone back in a hour. Forty minutes later the vet called me to say my best friend Missy had passed on. My heart broke and I was inconsolable. She was more than a pet and I now blame myself for not keeping her with me and trying to calm her down. She was very very nervous. It’s not just pet loss – this is exactly the same pain I went through four years ago when my beautiful 63 year old wife passed on due to ovarian cancer. I am totally lost, heartbroken and devastated. I am asking why does God put us through this? We get to love pets and people so much, and then He takes them away?”
I am so sorry for the loss of your pet. I don’t know why God allows us to love His creatures so much, and then He takes them away from us. It does seem to be unfair and even cruel to have to go through the heartbreak of a dog or cat dying – especially after losing a spouse that we love dearly. I don’t know why it has to be like this, and I wish death didn’t exist.
If you’re coping with the pain of dog or cat dying – and you’re missing your best friend more than you ever thought possible – you may feel like you’ll never be happy again. Now may not be the time to try to heal and feel better. Now may be the time to just sit down and cry.
Here, you’ll find a few suggestions for going through the grief, guilt, and pain of pet loss.
Coping With an Empty Home When You Miss Your Best Friend
The grief process after the loss of a pet dog or cat is heartbreaking; you are normal if you’re struggling to cope. You’re missing your best friend, your home is empty, and your life has been overshadowed by the unique pain and suffering that only pet loss brings.
Take time to taste the sorrow and grief of pet loss
What helps me cope with the pain of my cats and dogs dying (I have lost three cats and two dogs) is the memory of a Jewish celebration I went to, 20 years ago.
We sat around the table and took turns reading out of the Torah. The messages we read were about how life is so achingly beautiful sometimes, and how life is so devastatingly sad and heartbreaking other times. The idea was to remember life is bittersweet. It’s not all beauty and love, but it’s not all pain and suffering.
To symbolize the fact that life is bittersweet, we ate two types of food. One was a sickeningly sweet morsel of something sugary, and the other was a terribly bitter morsel of something gross. On their own, each bite of food disgusting and inedible. But when you put them together, the flavors blend and the taste was delicious.
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That was a huge life lesson for me. Life can’t be all sweetness, and it can’t be all bitterness. We need both the sweetness of love and the bitterness of death in order to fully be alive. And to heal the pain of pet loss, we need to taste the bitterness of grief. This helps me when I feel crushed by grief. I remember that our world – the world that God created for us – is heartbreakingly beautiful, full of majestic heights and deep dark valleys. We are blessed with God’s gift of having best friends to love, and we need to let go of them when they are taken from us.
Sit down and cry – for you have lost your best friend
If it has been only days or weeks since your cat or dog died, you are probably not ready to think of your cat or dog dying in terms of gifts and blessings. This is normal, and it means you are still working your way through the early stages of grief.
“Fresh grief is a time to sit on the trail and cry,” writes Margaret Brownley in Grieving God’s Way: The Path to Lasting Hope And Healing. “There’s no cure for grief, but there is healing for those who refuse to give in to depression and despair. Confront the painful memories, and let go of the negatives. The shock and disbelief that come with grief and death might serve a useful purpose.
They are God’s way of stopping us in our tracks and telling us, hold on; don’t move; something important is happening here. Faith comes to us in quiet moments, the soul grows in stillness, and healing takes time. You may think you are making no progress and are stuck in your grief, but God is preparing body and soul for the next growth spurt.”
Allow yourself to be comforted by pet lovers who understand
“Our beloved cat died a week ago and I miss her so much,” says Bonnie on How to Cope With the Pain of Missing Your Cat. “She was a huge part of my life, my best friend, my first cat. I didn’t know the pain of pet loss could be this bad. Things happened so fast…she started going into heart failure, her lungs filled with fluid. She was in an awful lot of pain and was unlikely to get better. We had to let her go. She must have been so scared and alone. I am heartbroken because I miss my best friend so much, and she had to experience such pain.”
Here’s consolation from another reader who understands:
“So sorry to hear of your loss. A cat can mean almost – if not the same – as a person. They were another living creature who you shared a bond and your life with. I lost my own wee one just a couple of weeks ago but I still feel myself crying out for him as we depended on each other for so long. It’s not crazy to be missing your best friend so much. Sometimes people just aren’t as adorable. You had your cat for a very long time and must have shared some lovely times together. These you can treasure forever and cherish in your heart. Your cat loved you and I’m sure will look over you from afar just as you did when he was near. I’m feeling for you and sending warmest hugs.”
Allow yourself to grieve pet loss your way
“I’m still in the guilt, regret and doubt phase of my dog dying,” says Sonja on How to Deal With Guilt After the Loss of Your Beloved Dog. “Grief comes in waves. I couldn’t bear to see my dog’s things around the house so I gave them to a friend who has a young dog. I really do feel like I’m missing my best friend…it’s my first experience with pet loss. It helps to write about the pain and guilt I feel about my dog’s death. Memorializing, talking about “rainbow bridges,” bringing home an urn and other pet loss sentiments like that don’t work for me. Dead is dead, and now I suffer, but happily my dog isn’t suffering anymore. I will treasure my memories, try to reflect on the 15 years we had together and allow myself to go through the process of grieving, hoping it gets better soon.”
Sonja is missing her best friend, and she knows what will help her cope with her empty home after her dog’s death. She knows that the Rainbow Bridge pet loss poem won’t help her heal, and she knows that giving away her dog’s stuff will help her survive an empty home.
What about you? It’s important to know what helps you process grief and cope with the pain of your cat or dog dying. Reading articles like this is good because it gives you an idea of how other people cope with missing their best friends…but you need to find what works for you.
Maybe it’s having a pet loss memorial service, or writing about what it felt like to experience your dog or cat dying. Maybe you need to post your pet’s picture on your Facebook page – or even in the park where you and your dog walked. Maybe you need to spend time in the exact spot that your cat once slept.
If you know someone who is coping with the pain of a cat or dog dying, you may find 8 Pet Sympathy Gifts to Ease the Pain of a Dog or Cat’s Death helpful. Sometimes a gift of sympathy and consolation can help with the “I miss my best friend” feelings of loss and grief.
Your thoughts and stories on how to cope with missing your best friend are welcome below. Sometimes the pain of pet loss is eased when you write about your experience, and memorialize your dog or cat’s death in a public place.
Help Coping With a Cat or Dog Dying
In Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die, Jon Katz says that by allowing ourselves to grieve pet loss honestly and openly, we can in time learn how to celebrate lives of the dogs, cats, and other creatures that have so enriched our lives and homes.
Katz asks us to consider if we gave our pets good lives, if we were their advocates in times of need, and if we used our best judgments in the end. Dealing with these issues helps us cope with the guilt and pain of missing our best friends. We can find healing, alleviate guilt, let go, and help others who are undergoing similar passages. And by honoring the animals that have graced our lives, we reveal their truly timeless gifts: unwavering companionship and undying love.
In this book, Katz shares personal experiences with his dog dying, stories from fellow pet owners, and philosophical reflections to help owners grieve the loss of their pets. He gently asks readers to consider if they gave their dogs good lives and if they used their best judgment in the end. In facing these painful questions, you will grieve your dog or cat dying in healthy ways.
In How to Heal Your Heart After Losing a Pet: 75 Ways to Cope With Grief and Guilt When Your Dog or Cat Dies, I share a variety of different to grieve and heal from pet loss. Grief is painful when faced in big chunks; my tips are designed to be “bite-sized”, which means you won’t have to sit and read through a huge amount of difficult information about healing after a pet dies.
This ebook contains advice from veterinarians, grief counselors, and pet loss experts, to help you cope with missing your best friend. I also included stories from real pet owners who coped with guilt and grief in sometimes surprising ways.
I am so sorry that you had to experience your dog or cat dying. Pet loss is heartbreaking, and leaves an empty home and heart. You’re missing your best friend, and you may feel like you’ll never be happy again.
May you find healing and hope, strength and courage. May you taste the sweetness of life again – even sooner than you expect. May you grow healthy and strong through this experience, and may your life be blessed with joy, connection, and love.