The loss of a dog is a difficult event, which upsets daily life, habits, routine… Whether this event is brutal and sudden or expected, it is painful to live with. Indeed, the dog is a faithful companion who is part of our life, he is a friend who shares our daily life and he is a full member of the family. His departure creates a void, changes habits. The death of a dog is followed by a period of mourning, a natural process for its owner which consists of several stages. Either way, only time can make things better. Time takes time.
Nevertheless, to mourn his little companion, or at least accept his departure more calmly, a few gestures can be of great help.
What are the different stages of mourning?
The loss of a dog is followed by a period of mourning, as with the loss of any human or animal loved one. This period, more or less long, is composed of several successive stages.
Stage n°1: flabbergasted
Generally, the loss of his little companion initially generates a phase of amazement. The announcement is a shock, whether the death is foreseeable – with a sick or seriously injured dog for example – or sudden. This stage is relatively short, but those who experience it express a feeling of shock, a feeling that the world is collapsing.
Step 2: denial
Again, this phase is short and immediately follows that of stupefaction. Denial is a difficult stage for the master who has just lost his dog and who still cannot realize the events and their consequences. To protect himself from the pain of such a void, the master refuses to accept the death of his little companion. He expects to see him at any time, as if the daily life and the little habits he had set up with his doggie continued naturally.
If the phase of denial seems to persist, it is best to consult in order to get help and support.
Step 3: Anger
This third stage is relatively difficult for everyone. The owner of the animal feels angry at this terrible event and usually looks for a culprit to blame. It may be his veterinarian, who was unable to relieve or save his dog, a witness or a relative who did not know how to alert quickly, a third party who could have acted differently and thus avoided the tragedy, etc. .
The grieving master tends to constantly think about the drama and replay it in his head in order to think of solutions that could have avoided it. It is difficult for those around him to reason with him. Anger can be a burden for those close to the master, who feel at the same time helpless, attacked sometimes, even annoyed by his reproaches and his incessant but natural rehashing.
Step 4: negotiation or haggling
Not all grieving masters experience the bargaining phase. Nevertheless, some feel the irrational need to negotiate, in the idea that such and such an act will be able to bring back their little companion.
Step 5: Guilt
In the pursuit of anger, the master feels guilt. It is now to himself that he blames the death of his dog. He still relives the drama in his head, he dwells on the events, but he feels responsible for what happened, he is convinced he made bad decisions.
If the animal’s death is accidental, he blames himself for not having acted to protect it – by locking the door behind him, for example, before the dog escaped and was knocked down. He can also blame himself for not having consulted the veterinarian sooner or for having made the decision to euthanize his precious companion.
A very difficult step for the master, because guilt can constantly eat away at him. It is important to be well surrounded during this period.
Step 6: Sadness
This phase is often the longest. The next phase, that of acceptance, begins to make its way. Nevertheless, the dog’s master still feels a sharp pain when he mentions his missing companion. He is now able to talk about it, but the memory is painful, painful and makes him sad. To think of the fact that he won’t come back, that their daily habits are definitely over and that he has to turn the page – or rather close the book of this stage of his life – is synonymous with great sadness.
Step 7: Acceptance
Acceptance begins to emerge during the sadness phase. The master can talk about his missing dog, but the pain tends to fade away little by little. With acceptance, he is able to evoke his little companion not without nostalgia and sometimes with regret, but generally with a smile. This does not mean that his death is not painful or that his little animal no longer matters, but simply that he has fully integrated his departure and accepted the fact that he will not see him again and that he cannot do anything do there. The page is turned, but the book remains within reach. Memories are evoked with much less pain, even with joy.
How to mourn your dog?
First of all, you have to let the different phases of mourning follow one another. Depending on the person, they will be more or less long, but all are natural and necessary. It is normal to suffer from the disappearance of a dog. This animal is a real life companion, a friend who shares the daily life of his master, who punctuates his days, some of his outings. Habits have been put in place to meet the needs of the dog and his master, a small daily routine that suits everyone and that suddenly disappears…
The dog is a full member of the family, so it is normal to suffer from its loss. You have to allow yourself time to mourn. Only time, quite rightly, will make it possible to come to terms with this departure, whether sudden or expected.
However, certain gestures may help you better cope with the events and go through the period of mourning smoothly.
- Accept your sadness, it is natural. It is completely normal to be saddened by the death of your dog, which leaves a great void in your life. There is no shame in crying or showing your pain.
- Surround yourself with the right people, those who have a pet or who have lost one. They will be better able to understand you, to listen to you without judging you. They can even be a valuable support. If you are alone, there are forums dedicated to people who have lost their pet, you can find help and support there.
- Take the time you need to get better. It is normal for the stages of grief to follow each other, some will pass more quickly than others. Do not try to rush things, your pain will be there for a long time. Let time do its job.
- Do your best to channel your anger. This phase is often difficult for those around you who must accept your aggressiveness and your bad mood. If this step is natural, avoid deferring it to those who share your daily life.
- When you’re ready, store your dog’s things. Some advise doing it immediately so as not to have to observe them every day, while others recommend waiting. It’s up to you to see what makes the most sense for you. Do not hesitate to place them temporarily in a box, the time to know what you want to do with them. You can also donate it to an association or a shelter. Finally, of course, you can choose to keep one or more objects that remind you of your animal.
- Arrange the cremation or burialof your dog, because these practical steps related to the body of your dog can help to face the hard reality. You can also pay a last tribute to your animal.
- Do not hesitate to think of your missing dog, to talk about your memories with him, whether it makes you laugh or cry. Its disappearance does not cancel it from your mind, evoking it can help you to accept its departure and to turn the page.
- Besides the keepsake that belonged to your dog, you may feel the need to have an object that represents it. A magnet on the fridge with his photo, a mug, a framed photo of him, a souvenir book… listen to your desires and your needs.
- Don’t shut yourself up, do not hesitate to go out and take time for yourself, to escape. Various activities, sports practice, walks, travel… anything that can help you will be welcome. Don’t feel guilty thinking about yourself, because you won’t be able to bring your dear pooch back, but you may feel a little better, and that’s the main thing in these circumstances.
How do you tell children about the death of a dog?
The loss of your dog is devastating to you, but it can also impact your children. It is only natural that they ask questions and seek to understand. Whatever their age, they too have lived daily with their doggie and it is important for them to know what has become of it.
Difficult for parents to find the right words. It’s generally a good idea to avoid pretending nothing happened or saying that the dog just left. For a child, the idea that his pet has left home to live elsewhere is very confusing and can make him feel guilty. He naturally wonders if he is responsible for this departure, he may fear that the phenomenon will happen again with the other animals in the home or the future adopted dogs. Consequently, it is better to tell the truth to children and explain to them that their dear companion has diedwithout giving shocking details.
By telling children the truth, you help them to do their own grieving process and to accept the situation without feeling guilty. Of course, you will have to live with their sadness, but it is natural. A child who has no answer will look elsewhere for solutions. In particular, he can very quickly feel guilty and blame himself for the absence of his dog. Reassure your children and tell them the truth. Death is also part of life, however painful it may be.
Grieving is generally easier for children than for adults. Very often, the loss of an animal is the moment for them to confront this reality of life. If you do not know how to accompany them, there are books that explain to children of all ages the death of a pet.
Don’t forget the other animals in the house
You have lost your dog, but do not neglect your other companions. They too can feel pain in the face of the disappearance of their comrade, the emptiness he leaves, the changes that this engenders in the daily routine…
Try to keep their habits in place and cuddle them. You may relieve some of their pain and yours.
Is it wise to adopt another dog?
Some masters who have lost their dog very quickly feel the need to adopt a new little companion. However, it is preferable to wait until the mourning of the deceased dog is done before considering such an adoption. Indeed, this sudden idea is generally intended above all to fill the void left by the deceased and not to face the reality of things.
However, it is a mistake to want to “replace” your deceased dog, because the new animal does not have this role. He cannot replace another dog, he is necessarily different. The master then tends not to form strong ties with the latter, sometimes reproaching him for not being like the missing doggie. A substitute dog is to be avoided, because it can only lead to a feeling of disappointment and ill-being for the master as well as for the animal.
Wait until you feel ready to adopt another dog. Once the departure of your little companion has been accepted, you can consider it. You can also make a fresh start with a new animal that is not of the same breed or age as your missing companion. Avoid giving him the same name, or even the same business, however… he is not there to replace him, but to write a new story by your side.