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Healing after a pet's death

Colleen E. Crane MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker based in Bozeman, Montana. Colleen is currently in private practice and specializes in working with adolescent girls and women.

Help in grieving for a pet

We picked Annie out when my daughter was about a year old. We knew she was the dog for us when we walked by her cage at our local animal shelter and Annie nuzzled her face against the gate, asking for love. We had never considered getting an older dog, but once we witnessed the loving exchange between my daughter and Annie, we knew we had to take her home. We had Annie for about three years, and then had to make the choice to let her go.
Dog in photo frame

Help
In grieving
for a pet

We picked Annie out when my daughter was about a year old. We knew she was the dog for us when we walked by her cage at our local animal shelter and Annie nuzzled her face against the gate, asking for love. We had never considered getting an older dog, but, once we witnessed the loving exchange between my daughter and Annie, we knew we had to take her home. We had Annie for about three years, and then had to make the choice to let her go.

Losing an animal can be really tough! Animals are like the best of friends who will sit, listen and bring great comfort and joy. Because of their endearing nature, losing them is like losing a family member. It hurts. And grief can seem insurmountable. But you really can start healing. We'll show you how to get through the grieving process.

Recognize your pet as a member of your family

Take time to grieve and don’t feel bad about it. Some people might think, “Oh, it’s just a dog or cat, not anyone important.” Pets provide lots of emotional support. Honor your pet’s life by giving yourself the space to grieve. If you need to take a day off of work or do something special for yourself, don’t hesitate.

Create a memory box

Gather pictures, videos or other memories and spend time decorating a box in memory of your pet. If you are crafty, you can also create a memory picture frame by taking your pet’s tags and a special picture and hanging it on your wall. For some, having your pet cremated and being able to spread the ashes is also as comforting as creating a memory box.

Start again

When you are ready, consider adopting another pet at your local animal shelter. There are so many animals waiting to be loved and taken care of in a good home. Getting a new pet doesn’t mean that you are replacing one — it just means you're sharing the love that was created with the pet you lost. Your new pet needs your love, too.

More on pet care

How to help your dog grieve
Common signs of cancer in pets
Pet safety in your car

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