Xtra_iStock_000044891736_LargeFor several of us, whose pets are akin to best friends, daily companions, and important members of the family, the loss of a pet can bring tremendous pain. The empty spot at the foot of the bed or the leash still hanging by the door can be reminders of heartbreak.

It is understandable, as with the loss of any significant relationship, that you may grieve for months. The road to healing requires time and gradual acceptance. Thinking about your pet and the positive memories may provide some comfort.

Thankfully, there are many resources to help you through this loss. You are among many who have faced what you are now facing.

Coping with the Loss of a Pet

Pet companions leave their marks in so many ways. They fill our homes with boisterous barks and soothing purrs. Our pets are as necessary and integral to to our lives as any important relationship, which is why the loss can be so devastating.

The shared experience of the human-animal bond also explains why we feel a strong connection with others who have experienced that same profound loss. The following suggestions have proven beneficial to others who have had to say goodbye to a pet companion; and so we hope they help you, too.

  • Surround yourself with emotional support, which could include members of the family who are also grieving the loss of your pet.
  • Honor your pet by creating a special memorial that speaks to the personality of your pet (e.g. a ceremony in a favorite meadow or park).
  • Join a pet loss support group – there are many online if you cannot find a face to face group.
  • Try and stay physically active, which can release depression-relieving endorphins (those walks were good for you too, and your pet would want you to keep going!).
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter.
  • Light an online memorial candle.
  • Reach out to someone else who has experienced a loss – sometimes a simple act of empathy and support can help lift your spirits.
  • Make a tribute gift to honor your pet’s life and the wonderful gifts he or she brought to yours. Many rescues and shelters depend on the generosity of fellow animal lovers in order to operate.
  • Create a scrapbook of all of your favorite photos of your pet, doing whatever made him or her happiest.
  • Donate a memorial bench at your local park or dog park with a special inscription honoring your pet.
  • Give yourself time.
  • Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel without censor. This process is different for everyone.
  • When the time is right, consider adopting a deserving and wonderful pet who is waiting for a forever home and all of the love you showed your pet during his or her life.
  • Not every one of these tips will be ones that will work for you. Use whatever feels helpful and provides healing benefits to you. Just know that taking solace in the memories of the unconditional love and resilient spirit of your beloved pet can help bring comfort.