For days, weeks and sometimes months after the death of a beloved dog, you may find yourself saddened when memories of your faithful companion come back to mind. It is important to understand that mourning the loss of your dog is an essential part of your recovery. You have lost a unique companion and your emotions may overwhelm you at times.

Allow yourself to grieve for your dog; celebrate the bond you had with your dog and don’t be afraid to cry. It takes time to heal from a loss so great.

Because your pet was an everyday part of your life, even the most ordinary daily tasks can turn out to be heartbreaking. You might find yourself preparing your dog’s meal or thinking it’s time to let him out to play in the yard, and then suddenly remember he is gone. You may come home sometimes and expect your dog to greet you at the door, tail wagging furiously.

Little things like scratch marks on the floor from his toenails can trigger a deep emotional response in you. Dog beds, food and water bowls, collars, leashes, and toys are obvious reminders of everyday life with your beloved companion. You may choose to get rid of all the items that would remind you of your dog, or a better solution might be to store them away somewhere until you are positive that you’ll never want them again – either as wonderful memories or for use with a new dog if you choose to adopt again.

The Stages of Grief
Doctor Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the now familiar five stages of grief in her 1997 book titled On Death and Dying. These stages were based on research Dr. Kübler-Ross conducted on human losses but they are just as applicable to the loss of a beloved pet. They are not meant to compartmentalize grief, only to help us better understand grief. These five stages may overlap with one another or occur in different orders, and sometimes not at all. There is no exact formula for grief.

The Five Stages of Grief as expressed by Dr. Kübler-Ross:

* Denial: The initial shock of loss leads to disbelief. Emotional numbness acts as a form of self-defense from reality.

* Anger: As it all sinks in, anger will begin to develop. This comes from a combination of your emotions and almost acts as a way to exhaust the stress. This stage often causes the mourner to lay blame on persons or things for the death.

* Bargaining: This is the “what if” stage. The grieving person envisions a way to have prevented the death. Guilt often accompanies bargaining.

* Depression: This can be a difficult stage to endure, but it is necessary to the healing process. A sad situation calls for sadness, and the reality of the death can cause a person to get very low. It is normal, but not without end. However, serious long term depression is a sign to seek help from a professional.

* Acceptance: Though the sadness and grief may remain forever, the acceptance stage means coming to terms with the reality of the death. Accepting it does not mean you are “over” it. Acceptance simply means you understand that life goes on.

The death of a beloved dog can leave a pain in your heart that you think will never go away. The most important thing to remember is that grief takes time. You will always miss your loving and faithful companion, but things will get better one day. At first, there will be more bad days than good. Eventually the good days will outnumber the bad days and you may find yourself focusing on the happy memories and experiencing less sadness.

Should you decide to adopt a new pet in the future, be aware that a new dog cannot replace your lost companion, but it might help fill the void in your life caused by the loss of your companion. As humans we will most likely outlive our pets, so be grateful for the short time you are able to share your life with them.

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