Humans have a special connection with dogs. They are pets, friends, and family members, and their incredible loyalty and sincerity can profoundly affect our lives in the deepest ways. No one’s dog is “just a pet.” So, when your one-of-a-kind companion passes, it can be a devastating and emotional experience, fraught with feelings of guilt, anger, and sadness, like you’re missing an integral part of your life.
Accepting your grief
Unlike humans, the loss of a pet doesn’t have the same societal mechanisms in place to help you cope. There is usually no formal time off work, no funeral services, and no community of grieving relatives outside of your immediate family. This can force you to face your grief privately, shrugging it off or putting it aside so it doesn’t become a burden to anyone else. But your sadness is real, and normal, and experiencing, processing, and accepting grief is an important part of dealing with loss in a healthy way.
The complex and powerful emotions you experience when a pet dies are not invalid or trivial, and they shouldn’t be ignored or blocked out so you can move on before you’re ready. Death is a part of life, and the remarkable relationship and love between you and your amazing animal are not diminished by the fact that your story together has come to an end.
Overcoming feelings of guilt
When you love and care for an animal, it’s natural to feel protective and responsible for them. So, if something happens that’s out of our control, like a sickness, an accident, or simply old age, it can feel like you’ve let your pet down, or that there’s something you could have done to protect your animal family member from the inevitable, to keep from losing them. You can blame yourself, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
Not being able to explain things to your dog can also be a source of guilt for pet owners. How can we comfort our pets at a moment when they don’t know what’s happening to them? How do we explain to them how much we love them amidst vet visits, unpleasant medications, or uncomfortable procedures? Should we have seen what was happening sooner? Could we have done things differently to save them?
There’s no way to know everything going on inside your furry friend, but it’s useful to remember that a dog’s love is pure and simple. They know how much you love them, and being with your pet through difficult times and the end of their life provides comfort and connection.
Finally, though putting your dog down when they are suffering is an act of kindness, it can feel brutal and unfair. Grief can make an act of mercy like euthanasia feel like a betrayal. These feelings of guilt are natural, but unfounded. Experiencing them is normal, but you can’t allow them to overshadow what’s really important: your dog’s life, not their death.
Honoring the memory of your dog
The loss of a pet can be particularly devastating because your dog is usually such a significant and stabilizing source of responsibility, emotional well-being, and joy. Dogs are our friends and family members, they help us deal with the chaos and challenges of life by being our rocks, our constant dispensers and receivers of unconditional love and support. When that’s gone, it can be hard to handle.
But that’s precisely why it’s important for dog owners to honor and dignify the memory of their companion, to not allow the tragedy of their passing to overshadow the radiance of their life. Embracing your time together and the memories you’ve shared is a healthy and helpful way to do this.
Honoring the life of a beloved dog can take on different forms for different people. Processing pet loss, grieving, handling the heartbreak, and finding closure can take time, no matter how many times you have a good cry. But finding personal ways to honor your pet’s memory and legacy can help you along your healing journey. Practicing self-care, engaging in coping activities, and creating tangible celebrations of you and your dog’s shared companionship are healthy ways of accepting what’s happened and moving forward while still carrying a part of your four-legged friend with you.
Writing your dog a letter
One way to process your emotions and communicate them is to write a letter to your dog. It’s a great way to tell your companion how much you love them and express your gratitude for the experiences and memories you’ve shared.
Spend some time jotting down special memories you have with your beloved pet and some of the favorite things you love and appreciate about them. You can express your feelings of gratitude, joy, pain, bereavement, sadness, and anything else you would want to say to your canine companion.
At first, it can seem like a mountain to climb, and you may be unsure of how to begin. But once you start to put your emotions into words, you may be surprised at how healing it can be to express these feelings, see them outside of yourself, or even read them aloud in private.
If you don’t feel comfortable writing, an alternative to this process could be making a video compilation of some favorite clips of your dog, or a playlist with songs that remind you of the time you spent together. The goal is to express and embrace your emotions through remembrance, in whatever form works for you.
Creating a diamond
It can be cathartic and healing to turn your memories and feelings into something tangible. Whether it's writing a letter, making a paw print mold, editing a memorial video, making a playlist, or planting a memorial tree, creating something real that embodies the connection between you and your pet can provide a physical reminder and a place to reflect.
At Eterneva, we know how important it can be to have something real that holds the memories, the beauty, and the significance of the deep connection with your special friend. We strive to be a source of brightness and clarity for those coping with the death of a beloved pet. Our collaborative process focuses on honoring those beautiful moments in your dog’s life. We want to work with you to support your grieving process and turn it into something special that you can carry with you.
That’s why, if you choose to create a diamond from the ashes or fur of your dog, we send you pictures, videos, and updates of the entire journey, giving you a chance to emotionally share in the process and see your animal friend transform into a diamond that you’ll be able to hold close forever. However you choose to celebrate and honor the life of your pet, we believe it will help you find closure, acceptance, and a deeper meaning in the connection you experienced together.