Grieving the Loss of a Dog – Some Suggestions

For many dog lovers, grieving the loss of a dog, particularly one that is deeply cherished, can be surprisingly painful. My book Charlie: A Love Story is about the joy and pain of my Golden Retriever Charlie’s last few years of life as well as my grieving process after I lost him. Even though I am a psychotherapist who specializes in relationships, and who regularly comforts and helps people with their losses, I am not immune from grieving when I lose one of my dogs. You can find out more about Charlie: A Love Story, by clicking on the following link: charliealovestory.com.

I recently met a woman who had lost her seventeen-year-old cockapoo two weeks earlier and who was holding a little eleven-week-old puppy of the same breed she’d gotten to compensate for her loss. She said that, for the first time in two weeks, she hadn’t cried and that she couldn’t believe how much trouble she was having controlling herself. She said she had taken her dog everywhere – on airplanes, to museums, to work, even once to jury duty.

I told her that the process of grieving the loss of a dog varies a lot from individual to individual. I suggested reading about others who have gone through that process, and I recommended some books. I also suggested looking on the internet to find other sources of support. I suggested that she could write about her loss and even write to her dog, which she seemed very willing to try. In Charlie: A Love Story, I found writing to him very helpful.

My guess is that she thought that getting a little puppy almost immediately after losing her seventeen-year-old dog might help her in her grief, but that things weren’t working out the way she thought they would.

My last comments to her were that it is impossible to heal from such a loss in two weeks and that she should give herself permission to feel what she needed to, for however long she needed to. Grieving the loss of a dog takes time, and time is one of the best healers.