Grieving the Loss of a Pet

Ban on stairs

When we lose a beloved animal family member, often times people are left to deal with the enormous loss privately because they do not have people in their lives that understand the level of grief that they are experiencing.

After losing my beloved dog, I felt very confused by the raw, painful emotion I was feeling. I quit my corporate job within weeks and within one year started my pet care business.  No doubt there were angels at work in the midst of the deep heartache.  Since starting Affinity Pet Services in 2004, I have had the honor of caring for hundreds of loved animal companions and sadly, many have passed away.  Through the process, I’ve learned ways to help the grieving family if they desire support.

Below are a few recommendations I offer to my clients.  Even if one suggestion feels right, it can make a difference in the sometimes difficult healing process.

Journal- Writing is therapy.  I filled an entire notebook about my grief, memories of my beloved dog, nick names, goofy things he would do that I never wanted to forget.  That journal was the single most healing activity I did.  If you’d like guidance, there is a workbook designed to guide you through the process called The Kingdom of Heart-A Pet Loss Journal.

Altar – Find a place in your home to honor your beloved- place a candle, your favorite photo(s), your pet’s collar, favorite toy, anything that brings a smile to your heart.  I use a battery operated candle that turns on automatically.  It feels like a little whisper “I’m here, I’m with you always”.

Memorial Garden -If you have a yard, find an area where you can plant a memorial garden.  Some people choose to bury their pets/ashes in this garden; others just find therapy working in the yard while honoring the memory of their pet.

Support Groups- Many cities/towns have Pet Loss Support Groups available. Call your pet sitter, veterinarian or animal shelter to inquire about a group close to you. Here, in Santa Rosa, California, we have a support group facilitated by Jane Sorensen, RN, MFT.  It’s every Tuesday from 7:15 to 8:15 pm at the Brookdale Lodge at Paulin Creek, 2375 Range Avenue, Santa Rosa.  It’s drop-in, there is no fee and all are welcome.  Jane’s number is 707-579-3411.

I have been asked to support my clients during euthanasia dozens of times, sometimes with them present and sometimes I’m the only person the animal knows.  Just recently my client lost her dog that I had known since puppyhood. My client asked that I be there, with them, during her euthanasia.  It was a privilege to be trusted so deeply, with this sacred moment.

I carry the memories of these beautiful animals in my heart and will never forget how fortunate I am to be doing this work, even in the saddest times.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Please comment and share what has helped you during the loss of a beloved animal companion.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Joan

    You sound so compassionate, and this is such a necessary work, in my opinion.

    1. Charlotte

      Thank you Joan. I work with so many animal loving people and ‘compassion’ seems to be a common thread in the majority. I appreciate your comment. ~Charlotte

  2. Vinky

    Stormy was a five year old, red and brown miniature Dach-wa-wa, who was left at the sheetlr because his owners were moving into an apartment that wouldn’t allow dogs. He was an incredibly affectionate companion, who slept in my lap every time I sat down to work at my desk. He was there for me when I went through a divorce, comforted me when I was struggling to find direction, and settled in comfortably when I re-married. Though his muzzle grayed, and his energy waned, he never had serious medical problems and lived to the age of 16, ironically passing away one week after the death of my second husband. It was a hard blow to handle on top of the heart wrenching grief I was already handling. Stormy rests comfortably in the farm cemetery, beside Doris, Patches, Argyle, and Miss Pussy. He had a great life, and he certainly made mine greater.

    1. Charlotte

      Vinky, thank you for sharing Stormy’s story. I’m sorry for your loss, of both Stormy and your husband, so close to together. I appreciate your time and hope my blog has inspired you somehow. Writing was certainly a help for me and I’m glad to see you are doing that too. Sending you big hugs, Vinky!

  3. Gine Oquendo

    Thanks for sharing! coping from our beloved pet is very hard to do, I loss my best buddy she is Tyra, And we’ve been for 15 years. And It’s been 2 months she’s been gone. I tried already to join some groups and reading some blogs and also joining forums. I can’t go back to my normal life again, the pain is still here and I don’t know where and how to start. Thank you to all my firends for your understanding and to
    pet cremation in houston for giving a great service to my dearest Tyra.

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