It is both staggering and unavoidable. Time is a finite resource and while our furry best friends would stay with us forever if they could, the typical lifespan of a dog is only 10 to 15 years. Dealing with the passing of your best friend is heart-wrenching but you can work through it. If you are telling yourself ‘my dog died and I can’t stop crying’ then try to relax yourself for a moment, take a deep breath, and read on. We cannot guarantee that this advice will help but we hope that it will help to inspire you to finding a little comfort in this trying time.
It’s okay to cry
The first thing that we need to point out is that it is okay to cry no matter who you are. When it comes to friendship, there is nothing on this planet that compares to the love of a dog. They give it in abundance daily, even when we are grouchy and feel that we might not quite deserve it. This is a good time to be aware of the stages of grief that one normally goes through when they lose a person close to them (and despite what non-dog people say, a dog IS a person). The 5 stages of grief are:
- Denial – The first stage is denial. We keep expecting our little one to come up and wake us in the morning, eager to play or sit at your feet for morning coffee. It’s a state of shock and acceptance of what has happened seems impossible. This is difficult but it will pass, you’ve got to hang in there.
- Anger –Anger is very likely going to manifest next. You might be angry at yourself, your friends (even your furry one who has passed). It is natural and all part of the process so you will need to brace yourself for when it comes. Don’t let it take hold. Anger is hard to control, like wildfire, so the best bet is not giving it a foothold in the first place.
- Bargaining – Another stage of grief is bargaining. Often in prayers or self affirmations we promise to do something noble or give up something if only… you know the rest. Keep reassuring yourself that there was nothing that you could have done differently, no matter what your mind is telling you. This too will pass.
- Depression – You are getting close to the last stage now. The depression period is when everything hits you and you are close to being able to let them go. Cry, look through old photos, remember the silly things that your friend sometimes did to amuse you. Treat it like an Irish wake in which you must strive to celebrate the life, rather than the loss.
- Acceptance – Before you flinch, acceptance doesn’t mean that you ‘are just okay with it’. Sometimes we never fully move on from a loss. Acceptance is better viewed as a time when we have felt the scope of the loss and we are beginning not to forget, but to make room for it.
Don’t run out and immediately buy a new dog
Sometimes the first reaction is a desire to immediately get a new friend to fill the void. It is generally going to be best to wait a little while, allowing yourself a ‘mourning period’. A new dog at this time is going to inspire you to compare the new dog with your old one. Feelings of guilt may arise if you feel like you are trying to ‘replace’ them. Even if you adopt a well-trained dog, the company which you receive
“Let yourself absorb a little of the impact first”
may be difficult for you rather than soothing. Wait and let yourself absorb a little of the impact first. You owe it to yourself and to your friend’s memory.
Work towards closure… consider a memorial
It is okay to memorialize your friend. The odds are that you and your little one have spent close to a decade together (if not more). There are a number of ways which you can do this. Some have their dog cremated and keep an urn on the mantle as a way of keeping them close and honoring their memory. For others who feel this a bit extreme, scrapbooking is another great option. Get a blank book or a book specifically designed for scrapbooking and put together some photos of you and your furry friends. This gives you a way to acknowledge and work through the memories, while honoring the and locking them away. While it is a painful process, it also has a feeling of resolution to it.
After closure you can get a new friend… but don’t expect your old one
When you have worked through the hardest parts of the grieving process and you are beginning to feel more like your old self, then this is the time that you can consider a new friend. You need to keep in mind that no matter how friendly this dog is or how much they remind you of your old friend, this dog is a new dog with their own quirks and personality. Try to find a little comfort in learning who your new friend is. Go through your scrapbook together if you like, as a way of introducing them to your former best friend. Whatever you do to welcome your new friend and find closure just keep in mind that this new dog is a completely different dog. Learn how to love them, rather than to compare them.
In this article we have discussed coping with the loss of your best friend. While nothing is going to magically take the pain away, recognizing the stages of grief can help to prepare you for the stormy times ahead. Don’t worry… you are going to make it through this. Just hang in there, letting the gravity of your loss to seep in, and some day you will find that while it is still there, you have the strength to carry it.