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How to Cope with the Death of a Pet

Updated on November 21, 2014

Prints in the Sand - Paw and Hand

Paw Print and Hand Print
Paw Print and Hand Print | Source

Ways to Remember when a Beloved Pet Dies

For many people experiencing the death of a pet is more than just having an animal die, it is like losing a cherished member of the family.

On this page I've pulled together many resources for those trying to cope with the death of a pet, resources for adults, resources for children and resources to help keep the memory of those beloved pets alive.

You will find video clips with advice, books, links to articles and a variety of commemorative and remembrance items to hopefully make dealing with the death of a pet a bit easier.

This page started out as part of a (webpage) lens written for the Squidoo website on "Remembering a Pet Who has Died," as a personal account of "The Boys," the four family dogs that we had when I was growing up.

I felt that the topic deserved to be it's own unique article, so this page is ultimately an expansion of that lens, coping with the loss of a beloved pet.

Image of Prints by miguelima.

When a beloved pet dies,

You lose a piece of your heart.

— Kirsti A. Dyer

Coping with the death of a pet - Video

Good Morning America resident veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker, talks about ways to cope with the death of a pet.

Coping with a Pet Video

Coping With the Death of Your Pet

The Humane Society of the United States offers the following advice from "Coping With the Death of Your Pet,"

There are many forms of support are available, including pet bereavement counseling services, pet-loss support hotlines scattered throughout the country, local or online Internet bereavement groups, books, videos, and magazine articles now available to help those coping with the death of a pet.

Some basic suggestions to help in coping with a pet death:

  • Acknowledge your grief and give yourself permission to express it.
  • Don't hesitate to reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear.
  • Check for pet loss hot-lines (on the UC Davis Pet Loss Page) for those grieving over the death of a pet.
  • Write about your feelings, either in a journal or a poem.
  • Call your local humane society to see whether it offers a pet loss support group or can refer you to one.
  • Prepare a memorial for your pet.
They also advise asking the veterinarian or local animal shelter about available pet loss hot-lines and exploring the Internet for pet loss support groups, pet memorial sites and additional coping information.

Source: Humane Society. Coping With the Death of Your Pet

A Journal to Help Cope with a Pet's Death

Paw Prints in the Stars: A Farewell and Journal for a Beloved Pet
Paw Prints in the Stars: A Farewell and Journal for a Beloved Pet

Paw Prints in the Stars was created by author Warren Hanson to help one deal with the loss of a beloved pet. The journal contains a place for treasured photos and journal pages for favorite memories

 

Pet Loss - Options for Grieving Pet Owners

The end of our pets' lives can be a traumatic event for many people. The bond that we share with our pets means we aren't just losing an animal; we are losing a family member. Pet burials, memorials services and even complete funerals are becoming commonplace across the nation. There are even many pet loss support lines. Many pet owners are now finding that these "after-life" options help them to gain closure produced by the Veterinary News Network.

Tip: Hold a Pet Memoral Service

Planning and holding a memorial or funeral can be a beneficial way to help in coping with the death of a beloved pet.

Kirsti A. Dyer

Ways to Remember a Beloved Pet

According to the AVMA's (American Veterinary Medical Association) Pet Loss Brochure:

  • For some people, a memorial service or ritual (such as releasing balloons or spreading cremated remains) can be therapeutic. You may choose to keep and display reminders of your beloved animal, such as photos or mementos or anything that helps you recall and treasure the good times you spent with your beloved animal.

Some suggestions for coping with the death of a pet include:

  • Have a Memorial, Funeral or Celebration for the pet.
  • If not a service, find some way to remember the pet, perhaps by planting a plant or releasing balloons.
  • Read books or find Internet articles on coping with the death of a pet.
  • Work on a journal about the pet.
  • Create a scrapbook about the pet.
  • Wear a special necklace in memory of the pet.
  • Have a special urn or plaque for the pet.
  • Make a Memorial stepping stone.
  • Celebrate National Pet Memorial Day.
  • Contribute to a charity in honor of the pet.

As planning and having a memorial or funeral for a family member helps in realizing and coping with the death of a person, similar rituals can also be used to help in coping with the death of a beloved pet.

Resources for Coping with a Pet Loss

Books and articles with more information on dealing with the death of a pet.

Coping with the Loss of a Pet

Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet
Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet

One of the classics on coping with the loss of a pet from Moira Anderson Allen.

 

When a Pet Dies

When a Pet Dies
When a Pet Dies

Get help from Mr. Fred Rogers when a child's pet dies.

 

A Guide to Mourning When Your Pet Dies

When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing
When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing

From one of the grief experts Dr. Alan Wolfelt a guide to coping when a pet dies.

 

Tip: Display or Carry Mementos to Ease the Loss

You may choose to keep and display reminders of your beloved animal, such as photos or mementos or anything that helps you recall and treasure the good times you spent with your beloved animal.

AVMA's (American Veterinary Medical Association) Pet Loss Brochure

Carry or Wear Pet Mementos

Keep the memory of your pet with you always by wearing a memorial necklace or carrying a memorial keychain.

These Necklaces allow you to carry a lock of fur or some of their ashes with you at all times as a way to remember.

Pet Memorial Keychain

Moonstone Creations Pet Memorial Keychain with Paw Print and Angel Wing Charms
Moonstone Creations Pet Memorial Keychain with Paw Print and Angel Wing Charms

Carry a memorial keychain as a way to remember a beloved pet.

This one features a paw print with an angel wing.

 

With Me Always Ash Holder Necklace

With Me Always, Heart Ash Holder Necklace in Silver
With Me Always, Heart Ash Holder Necklace in Silver

Use this Ash Holder Necklace as a tangible way to remember a beloved pet with the reminder words, "With Me Always."

Fill with a fur tuft, cremated remains or any other small reminder of your beloved pet.

 

Tip: Help Children Cope with Pet Loss

For many children, the death of a treasured pet is often their first major experience with death.

Understandably, children may need extra care after the death of a pet as they make their way through the grieving process.

CVMA (California Veterinary Medical Association)

Helping Kids Cope with Pet Loss - Video

A pet's death can be extremely hard on kids. Get tips for describing the euthanization process to kids in this free video clip about coping with pet loss for children from Expertvillage.

A Boy and His Dog

A Boy and His Dog
A Boy and His Dog | Source

Saying Goodbye to Your Pet

Saying Goodbye to Your Pet: Children Can Learn to Cope with Pet Loss
Saying Goodbye to Your Pet: Children Can Learn to Cope with Pet Loss

A helpful book for children using art therapy to cope with a pet loss.

 

Helping a Child Cope with the Death of a Pet

The California Veterinary Medical Association offers these tips on helping children work through the loss of a pet:

  • Give the child permission to experience the grief.
  • Tell their teacher about the pet's death.
  • Encourage the child to talk freely about the pet.
  • Give the child hugs and reassurance.
  • Discuss death, dying and grief honestly.
  • Include the child in everything that is going on.
  • Explain the permanency of death.

It is important for parents to realize that for many children, the death of a treasured pet is often their first major experience with death.

Understandably, children may need extra care after the death of a pet as they make their way through the grieving process. Following some of the suggestions for adult on "Ways to Cope with the Death of a Pet," presented earlier, may also be helpful for children.

Source: CVMA. We Love Our Pets and Grieve When They Die: California Veterinary Medical Association Offers Grief Guidance to Help Owners Cope. Press Release. 2007.

Image: Boy and his Dog by btwist.

I"ll Always Love You (Pet Version)

I'll Always Love You
I'll Always Love You

A classic for helping a child cope with the death of a beloved companion dog.

 

Kate, the Ghost Dog

Kate, the Ghost Dog: Coping with the Death of a Pet
Kate, the Ghost Dog: Coping with the Death of a Pet

Highly recommended this book for ages 8 and up is helpful for children coping with the death of a pet.

 

Stuffed toys can help children and adults cope with the death of a pet by giving the grieving person something to cuddle, hold and talk to when they are missing their beloved pet.

— Kirsti A. Dyer

Labrador Puppy Puppet

Labrador puppy from Amazon
Labrador puppy from Amazon

Stuffed Toys Can Comfort and Soothe

Stuffed toys can help children and adults cope with the death of a pet.

While a stuffed toy cannot take the place of the real pet, it can give the grieving person something to cuddle, hold and talk to when they are missing being able to cuddle and hold their beloved pet.

Scented, microwavable stuffed toys can also soothe through scent and through warmth. Microwavable stuffed toys can be warmed and provide heat when held. The scented toys (often lavender) helps ease emotional distress.

Labrador puppy available on Amazon.

Stuffed Labrador Toys

We had a variety of Labrador mixes growing up, so getting a stuffed Labrador toy might have helped.

A plush stuffed toy could have been something to cuddle when I was missing any of our dogs.

Even better for cuddling and smelling at the same time, look for a lavender scented stuffed toy like Lucky below.

Get the soothing smell of lavender while cuddling.

Black Labrador Puppy Puppet

Folkmanis Black Labrador Puppy Puppet
Folkmanis Black Labrador Puppy Puppet

Cuddle up with a labrador puppy.

 

Lucky the Lavender Scented Dog

Lucky The Lavender Scented Dog
Lucky The Lavender Scented Dog

Cuddle and smell the soothing scent of lavender at the same time.

 

Saying Goodbye - Loss of a pet - Video

A beautiful, healing tribute from tla0866 who reminds us that "Saying goodbye is the hardest thing to do." Have some tissues near by just in case.

Loss of a Pet - Video

Capture a Memory in Stone

Capture the Memory of a Special Friend

Paw and Hand Print
Paw and Hand Print | Source

Make a Paw or Hand Print

Make your own custom tribute in stone for your favorite pet using one of these handy kits.

You can capture the memories of both children and pets as they grow up together with stepping stones.

Creating the stones while the pet is still alive gives you a memento to cherish once they have passed on.

Make a stepping stone using the kit to the right or the one below.

Make a Paw Print

Midwest Products Paw Print Kit
Midwest Products Paw Print Kit

Create a paw print while the dog (or cat) is still alive so you will always have one.

 

Celebrate National Pet Memorial Day

A beautiful tribute from timberpuppy to remember pets who have died, including those who have died in service.

This celebration was in September 2010.

National Pet Memorial Day - Video

Sympathy letter from the Vet

Sympathy letter from the Veterinarian
Sympathy letter from the Veterinarian | Source

Send a Sympathy Note when a Pet Dies

Sending a sympathy note or card for the death of a pet is a supportive gesture to help a friend dealing coping with a pet loss.

Frequently pet owners grieving the loss of a beloved pet are afraid to show their feelings when mourning the death of an animal.

Sending a Card helps to acknowledge the death and also the loss that the pet owner is experiencing.

Those who have lost pets know the healing benefits of receiving sympathy cards.

Image of a Sympathy letter from the veterinarian by Liz Henry.

All Dogs Go to Heaven

Pet Sympathy Greeting Card - All Dogs Go To Heaven
Pet Sympathy Greeting Card - All Dogs Go To Heaven

Inside reads "But when they go, they leave such a big hole in our hearts."

 

Pet Sympathy Cards

Luxepets In Loving Memory, Dog Sympathy Cards, 4-Pack
Luxepets In Loving Memory, Dog Sympathy Cards, 4-Pack

Sympathy card that reads "In loving memory" on the outside.

Inside reads "Sending you caring thoughts during this difficult time."

 

Share Your Thoughts on Coping with the Loss of a Pet

Share any ways that you have found helpful in coping with the death of a beloved pet in the comment section below.

© 2010 Kirsti A. Dyer

Comment on Sending Pet Sympathies and Coping with Pet Loss

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great content written with much empathy. I found it comforting. Our pets are our hearts. While time helps with dealing with the loss, it only helps and there seems to be no solution, really. At least that's my feeling.

    • serenity4me lm profile image

      serenity4me lm 6 years ago

      It seems to me that while I'm still suffering with my pets loss, others around me think that I should be over it. She passed away on June 12, 2011. Why do some people not understand the loss that is felt when a beloved pet dies? Great lens, thank you.

    • LissaKlar LM profile image

      LissaKlar LM 6 years ago

      What a great lens. I know I've been trying to grieve the loss of my cat, thinking how silly I'm being, and i've neglected the fact that my daughter also needs to grieve. Thanks for all the resources. I'd like to buy my daughter the journal to remember our cat.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 6 years ago

      What a beautiful, supportive lens for folks who've lost beloved pets. I would love to encourage such families to open their hearts to another pet as soon as they're ready. Keep giving the love to these precious beings. Squid angel blessed and featured on blessed pets.