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When we choose to take on being a pet owner we take on more than just taking care of them.  The pet becomes a very intimate part of our lives, our family and our hearts.  They become like another family member and often our best friends.  The loss of a family pet can be traumatic.

Carly and Buddy 2004

We recently lost our dog Buddy who we’d had for almost 14 years.  To say I am devastated by losing him is an understatement.  He brought so much happiness into our home with his unconditional love and happy nature.  We each had our own special relationship with him.  He filled places inside each one of us that we only now realize existed.  He was the glue that held us all together.  As my kids grew up, my relationship with him deepened. In losing Buddy, I lost my best friend and one of my biggest loves ever.

This loss has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through.  But I have learned some important lessons about taking care myself in hard times.  I’m sharing this with you all in the hopes that it can help others going through it too.

  1. Surrender to your grief.   The only way to lessen your pain is to move toward it, not away from it.  Keep a journal and write about your feelings to help release them.  Emotional wounds require attention just as physical wounds do.   Let your friends and family know that you need time to grieve so they can give you the emotional space you need.
  2. Self compassion. We are spiritual beings having a very human experience. Yes, we do get attached to things in this world.  That’s our humanness.  Find compassion for yourself and know that you are not alone in experiencing the pain of losing a beloved pet.  Talk to others who have lost their pets and learn from them.  Be gentle and kind to yourself.
  3. Get help.  One of the things that helped me the most was having a few compassionate friends call to check in on me.  Having someone to talk to about what you are going through and the love and support they offer can help get you through the rough times.  Talking to a therapist can help as well.

    Kiss bliss with Carly!

  4. It’s true that time heals. Allow yourself however long you need.

I still can’t believe he’s gone and find myself with tears every day.  I still expect him to come around the corner to sit by my side.  There’s no magical elixir that will take away the pain.  You have to go through the grief process and eventually you’ll come to a place of surrender.  Once you reach this place you are more open to turning inward.  “The natural way of healing after the death of a loved one is suffering at first, then there is a deepening. In that deepening, you go to a place where there is no death” says Eckhart Tolle.  A Course In Miracles teaches that “the world is not left by death but by truth”; truth being that this world is not the truth of who we are.  We are spirit not our physical selves. That every relationship is spiritually assigned and for our highest spiritual growth. That only love is real and what is real between us and our dogs (love) remains – always.  Grief is fundamentally a spiritual journey.

Loss is a part of life.  We can’t hang onto anything in this world of form.  I have to keep reminding myself of that.  But they say that as one door closes another opens.  Slowly, I begin to open to it.  I will never have another dog like Buddy but I’m comforted to know that the love we shared remains and that I will, one day, share this deep love with another.

Have you ever experienced the loss of a pet?  What was helpful for you?  I’d love to know.