In How to Fix a Broken Heart, Dr Guy Winch offers healing advice to help you cope with grief when your dog dies. This is one of the most thoughtful, informative books on pet loss I’ve ever read; it explains why grief over a dog’s death isn’t given the time or attention its due.
A dog dying isn’t seen as “bad” or difficult to overcome as a human death. “When a parent, child or sibling dies, we are likely to get an outpouring of support and compassion from institutions as well as individuals,” writes Dr Winch. “But they will do no such thing when our beloved dog dies, even though for some people a dog’s death is just as profound, if not more. As a result, we’re often deprived of the recognition, support, and compassion afforded those whose heartbreak is considered significant.”
Here, you’ll find healing wisdom and support to help you the grief of your dog’s death. I’ll focus mainly on setbacks that occur during the grieving process, as well as what to do when grief overwhelms you.
Expect setbacks during your grieving and healing process. You’ll find emotional triggers when you least expect them. Memories will flood in, and you’ll find yourself awash in a wave of grief. This is normal. Your dog’s death is a huge, terrible grief — and I’m sorry for your loss.
Healing Wisdom for When Your Dog Dies
My articles are broken up into five different categories, or Blossom Tips. This ensures I cover everything involved in the grieving process after a dog’s death: spirit, heart, soul, body, and brain.
If you need a little spiritual TLC (tender loving care) — the first tip will remind you that your dog is resting in peace in Heaven. If you need emotional or psychological healing (Heart Blossoms), you’ll appreciate Dr Winch’s healing wisdom. I’m the creative spark, which you’ll find in Soul Blossoms! If you need a physical push, you’ll enjoy the Body Blossom Tip…and last but not least you’ll run into Brainy Blossoms.
1. Spirit Blossoms – Dog Heaven
The grief of losing your dog is just as powerful and devastating as any loss. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing losses, or dismissing your grieving process because your dog was “just” an animal. We love our pets with our whole hearts, and the love we share with our dogs is pure, uncomplicated, and unconditional. That’s why we need help getting through grief when a dog dies: it’s a deeper, more complicated grieving process because not everyone understands this love. Sometimes we ourselves don’t even understand it.
I’m comforted with the thought that my lost dogs and cats are in Heaven with Jesus. I cling to my childlike view that my dog’s soul is resting in peace in God’s arms simply because it makes me feel better. I’ll take comfort and peace anywhere I can get it! I allow His healing wisdom to help me through the waves of grief that hit at unexpected times.
2. Heart Blossoms – The Substantial Grief of a Dog’s Death
Your dog is woven into every part of your home and life. Your dog is part of your daily routine, and you had to leave places early so you could go home and care for your dog. You couldn’t go on vacation or make major life decisions without considering how it would affect your dog, where your dog would stay, and who would take care of your dog.
When your dog dies, a major piece of your life has been ripped away. Everything changes at home; the whole feel of your house is different. “When our heart is broken, the more substantial our relationship and our connections are (such as with a dog), the deeper our grief is likely to be and the longer it might take us to recover,” writes Dr Winch in How to Fix a Broken Heart. “What makes heartbreak so different from other forms of grief is that sometimes even the loss of a brief and superficial connection can pierce our core to the depths.”
You aren’t just grieving the death of your dog. Your heart is broken, and needs time to heal.
3. Soul Blossoms – Find Company for Your Grief
Isolation and loneliness won’t help you through the grieving process when your dog dies. You may feel like you want to be alone, perhaps even curl up in a ball and hide from the world. It’s embarrassing to share how difficult the grieving process is, especially if friends and family don’t understand the grief of your dog’s death.
Reach out to people who knew your dog, who understand the pain of pet loss. Share your memories of your dog’s life and death. Write about the guilt you’re struggling with over your dog’s death. Give yourself time to go through the grieving process. Be patient, for you may not find the help you need right away. Healing won’t happen overnight…and you’ll always carry a wisp of sorrow in your heart over your dog’s death.
4. Body Blossoms – Feel Your Heart Beat
Physically, your life may be different now that your dog is gone. You may not be going for the walks or runs, or even venturing out into your neighborhood much. This is understandable…but it won’t help you through the grief when your dog dies. One of the best dollops of healing wisdom I can offer is to get your body moving.
The more you get your heart pumping and blood flowing, the faster you’ll heal and walk through grief after your dog’s death. You’ll literally move the stress hormones and toxins of grief through your system, and you’ll feel better if you breathe deep and wide. If you don’t want to walk or run in your neighborhood because of the sad memories, take a drive or subway ride to the next community.
If you had to rehome or give away your dog, read 5 Ways to Deal With Guilt and Grief After Rehoming Your Dog.
5. Brainy Blossoms – Put Away Your Dog’s Possessions
“When a beloved dog dies, putting away their toys and grooming instruments, disposing of remaining dog food, and removing their crates, cages or pillows can feel like an impossible task,” writes Dr Winch in How to Fix a Broken Heart. “The mere thought of doing so can evoke powerful feelings of guilt. We feel like we are betraying a dog that had been unconditionally loyal to us throughout their lives. It can even feel as through we’re disrespecting our dog’s memory.”
After some time has passed, it’s important to put away your dog’s stuff. Doing so in a loving, honoring way can help you through the grieving process after your dog dies. Donating or packing away your dog’s possessions can be therapeutic. Hard as hell, but helpful.
“Reminders are psychological representations of our emotional attachment to the dog we lost,” writes Dr Winch. “As you process your loss and move through your grief, this attachment should weaken with time. Disposing of your dog’s reminders reflects your willingness to let go and your readiness to move on.”
In Farewell, Friend: A Gentle Guide to Saying Goodbye to Your Dog, you’ll find companionship, hope, and healing. You’ll hear from fellow animal lovers who know exactly how heartbreaking the loss of a dog is…and you’ll be comforted with reassurances that your dog is resting in peace.
Take heart, for you are not alone.
Expect setbacks during the grieving and healing process after a dog’s death. You’ll find emotional triggers when you least expect them…but just expecting them can help you get through them.
What do you think? Your thoughts on moving through grief when a dog dies are welcome below. Feel free to share your stories and memories of your dog’s life and death, and tell us what has helped you through the grieving process.