5 Secrets to Moving on after Loss of a Pet
Do you remember the worst day of your life? I do. The day I had to help my heart cat Dusty transition to the other side was hands down the worst day of my life. And trust me, I have had some unbelievable things happen in my life that you’d think only happens in the movies.
Dusty was my heart cat, my best friend, and my family member. She was a Siamese and Calico mix, the youngest of two cats I had, and such a lovely spirit. She charmed everyone that met her and even turned my husband from a dog person to a cat person. Yes, she had much of an impact on our lives.
So when I had to euthanize her and bring her everlasting peace, I was beyond devasted. I cried so much that my eyes swelled like a professional boxer’s. I suffered grief-related insomnia, had changed physically, had a bout of depression, and was heartbroken.
Although I was down I was not out. Although this was the worst moment of my life, I survived. I learned to move forward past the pain.
If you are reading this, I know that’s exactly what you are searching for too.
How can I move on after the loss of my beloved pet?
Understand that moving on doesn’t mean forgetting your furry family member and it’s not an easy task, but it is possible with effort, consistency, and self-reflection.
Our pets are a permanent fixture in our lives -past, present, and future. They live in our hearts forever. But wait no more, for I will share with you 5 secrets I used to move forward after pet loss that can also help you during this difficult time.
5 Keys to Moving on after Loss of a Pet
1. Know what’s holding you back.
What are you holding onto and why? Identify the things that are keeping you stagnant and preventing you from moving forward.
Is it guilt?
I understand this one all too well. I had a large amount of guilt having to euthanize my cat Dusty but I worked through my guilt and came to realize I made the best decision for Dusty’s quality of life. At the end of the day, I came to understand that you do the best you can with the information and resources you have at the time.
Learn to release the guilt.
Our pets would not want us to hold onto guilt but go on to live happy lives after they have gone. If you want to learn how I learned to let go of the guilt, check out this post here.
Is it the lack of closure?
Sometimes your pet dies of circumstances out of your control. For example, my husband’s dog died at the hands of an evil neighbor who poisoned his dog. True story!
He was devastated and never got the chance to say goodbye to his beloved dog as a young man. That memory lives with him until this day. I can empathize. How traumatizing!
At the end of the day, understand and know you don’t have to hold onto any self-doubt or blame when it’s circumstances out of your control. I understand feelings of anger and rage and probably vengeance however that won’t bring your heart pet back.
As hard as it is when you are not given the opportunity of finding closure in a typical fashion, you are forced to be creative and find a different type of closure.
I wrote a post a while back regarding what do you do when your pet’s ashes are lost. Yes, that happens, unfortunately. You can read about it here.
Find new ways to get the closure you deserve.
A few alternative ways to find closure include, holding a memorial with images or a slide show of all your pet’s happier memories.
I would even go as far as to suggest, retrieving their dog/cat fur from their hairbrush and keeping it or having it made part of memorial jewelry in their honor.
Or another option is having a memorial tree planted in their memory.
These are just a few ideas to explore. It may not be the closure you planned on but is an alternative way to bring you some comfort and work through your grief in a positive way while also honoring your beloved furry companion and family member.
Is it a question of timing?
Learning to grieve and taking time to heal does not happen on a certain timetable. So if you are thinking things like,
“ Why am I still crying?”
“Why can’t I move on by now, it’s been 6 months?”
Know you are not alone and you are not weird. Everyone heals on their own timetable. Everyone could have the same event happen to them but recount a different experience compared to the next person. This is the same with pet loss.
Take your time.
Understand you will have highs and lows, good days and bad days. With the passage of time, the pain will lessen.
With enough time you will find a new rhythm to your daily life and learn to adjust.
You never forget your pet, you just learn to live life without their physical presence. The good thing despite everything is you always know the love shared remains.
2. Talk it out.
Living with grief and the loss of a pet is one of the hardest experiences I have lived through, but having support is so important and helpful. So be sure to talk out your feelings and frustrations. Talking and expressing yourself is a big step in moving on after loss of a pet. I was so grateful to have my family, friends, and a doting husband to listen and shed my tears.
It’s important to not have the gravity and weight of sadness and negative thoughts build up within yourself. It’s helpful in the grieving process to find ways to release your emotions in a healthy way.
If that means talking it out, great. If you need to cry those tears, do it.
When you feel like talking to friends or family is not enough, professional help is available. Check out this post with a list of pet loss hotline phone numbers you can explore. The list includes resources and access to professionals that can help listen and provide you with tools to navigate your feelings.
Giving yourself the chance to let out your emotions and talk about them does your body and mind good.
3. Learn to forgive yourself AND them.
I know this is not the easiest thing to do, but it is an important step to bring you closer to moving on after loss of a pet. It may be hard to do but forgiving yourself or the one involved in the death of your pet is important to moving on your path to healing.
I’m sure you are asking, “ Why should I forgive them? Or how can I forgive myself?”
Well, I’ll answer this in two parts.
The Importance of Forgiveness
When it comes to forgiving yourself, you must do so to not allow the guilt or doubt to consume you to the point of never allowing yourself to find happiness and joy again. Trust and believe, if your furry friend Fluffy was sitting next to you right now, do you think [s]he would want you to wallow in self-pity and guilt? Nope!
I bet Fluffy would be thinking,
“I had the best human Mom/Dad. They released me of my pain. Why are they riddled with sadness. I’m free and still here loving them from the other side. Our love never died!”
That’s one point of view.
Regarding those that did harm or were involved in the death of your pet, this can involve multiple factors.
Was your pet’s death an accident?
Did your pet die due to negligence?
Was your pet’s death calculated or intentional?
Did the crematorium lose your pet’s ashes?
With all of these factors, I would find comfort knowing that a vengeful “thingy” called KARMA is coming.
Karma is coming
Oh, yes! I always say be mindful of what you do and the energy you put out in the world because it always comes back to you. To be blunt, karma is a beast that takes no prisoners.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a person of faith but let me tell you I have seen it with my own eyes. Karma can take care of people far better than you can.
The only caveat I find is it takes a little time. But when karma strikes it’s worth the wait. Do you need proof?
Well, remember when I mentioned my husband’s dog that was killed by a neighbor when he was a young man? After telling me about what his neighbor had done, I replied:
“I’m so sorry about your dog and that he was poisoned. I can’t imagine. I feel so bad for what you went through. And your poor dog. Whatever happened to that woman that did that?”
Well, what he told me next had me stunned. He replied:
“She was never arrested or caught. Several years later I heard that she moved to a different part of my hometown. Her house caught fire and she was badly burned and one of her children died in the same house.”
Well just to show you how karma can work, it was several years later when my husband learned that the same woman who poisoned his dog and caused him to die, suffered a huge loss of her own. I was stunned to hear that and was speechless.
The point of it all
I say share that to say, learn to forgive yourself and others.
What do I mean? I look at it like this.
Forgiveness allows you the gift of not allowing what happened to you to dictate the direction of your life. Now pause, go back, and read that last sentence again.
Forgiveness means you are going to choose to release that pain and not allow it to determine how you live your life going forward.
You don’t have to forget but forgive for yourself. And for those that have done you wrong, karma will handle the rest. Aim to let what grieves you stay in the past and don’t allow it to affect your present anymore.
4. Take one step at a time.
You’re in charge of your pain as well as your future. It’s up to you to take control and take the first step towards making yourself feel better. I know you don’t want to remain in this state of sadness. So if you want to see a change in your life, it starts with trying something new.
You’ll never get new results with the same actions over and over.
Try exploring these strategies to help you move on after the loss of your pet.
- Acknowledge your pain is real but you can find healing with time.
- Confront the cause of the pain, guilt, and anger and do everything in your power to work on eliminating those negative emotions.
- Turn your pain into purpose and volunteer at your local animal shelter or food bank.
- If you are not ready to adopt, consider fostering.
- If you are an introvert, explore your creativity and create. Here are a few easy art therapy ideas to try at home.
- Remember, to be kind to yourself. Practice self-care every day. Check out these super easy self-care ideas to help you get started.
5. Keep your pet’s memory alive!
One last tip to help you in moving on after loss of a pet is to keep your pet’s memory alive by talking about them often. It’s been a few years and I still talk about Dusty all the time. Her happy bubbly spirit filled my home with so much joy and talking about her and fond memories make my heart smile.
I know you can do the same. Honor your pet by using the way they lived their lives with you as inspiration for your life today.
Let their memory inspire you in everything you do. Honor them by being your best. Learn to value every moment of the day. Enjoy the little things. Treat yourself every now and then.
Share your experience and fond memories with your pet[s] with others. Remember, your personal story is a testimony for someone else going through the same thing.
Your grief journey is can be an unexpected blessing and motivation for someone else who is grieving. It’s proof that they too can make it through this difficult time and come out of the storm on the other side.
Remember your story doesn’t end here. You have a lot more living to do and joyful memories to make. Losing a pet is one of the most devasting experiences you can go through. But I am living proof, you will get through this too. I hope sharing these secrets to moving on after the loss of a pet resonated with you. It’s been a long journey but a worthwhile one.
It’s because I chose to share my journey navigating life after pet loss that this blog exists. It’s my wish and hope sharing my journey helps you on your path to moving forward. We never forget, but rather carry them in our hearts forever.
Have you recently lost a beloved pet? Are you having trouble moving on after the loss of a pet? Did this post give you helpful ideas for healing? What other tips would you add?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.