Coping with the death of a pet: Four things that can help you heal

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Colleen Mihelich is the founder of, which sells pet memorials, grave markers, urns and other items. She’s authored numerous articles on dealing with grief over the loss of a pet. Peternity is based in Southern California.

The joys of pet ownership and the ways in which pets enrich our lives are endless– the love, the companionship, the playfulness, the loyalty. But unfortunately, we most often outlive our pets and have to deal with letting go of them much sooner than we wish.

When you’ve lost a pet, you may feel that nothing can take the pain away. However, there are a few things you can do that may help:

  • Remember, love is forever. You may not be able to
    wrap your arms around your pet or sleep beside him, but he is still with
    you in memory. Your pet’s spirit, his effect on your life, his lessons
    of love and loyalty, and the time that you spent together live on
    through memories, pictures and stories.
  • Find pet-loss support. Often, finding others who
    have gone through a similar experience and talking to them can help you
    start to process your grief. Web sites such as offer discussion forums specifically for pet-loss support. If you’d like a group that meets in person,
    lists hundreds of pet-loss support groups all over the country. Many
    shelters, rescues and humane societies also offer pet-loss support
    groups that may meet in your area.
  • Honor your pet. It’s cathartic to create a
    tangible pet memorial that will help your pet’s memory live on. Whether
    it’s a photo album, scrapbook, video, a written tribute or a grave
    marker or urn, going through the ritual of creating a tribute to your
    pet will help you to first accept the loss, and then begin the process
    of healing.
  • Focus on joy, not fear. I think the thing that
    brings me the most comfort is the realization that, unlike humans who
    are aware of and fearful about death, pets do not fear dying. They don’t
    have a conscious awareness of the future or their inevitable passing.
    They live in the moment in pure joy for each day that they have on
    earth. Find peace and comfort in the fact that your pet was not scared,
    but simply passed on to the next stage that is inevitable for all
    animals and humans as well. Also, remember that your pet lived for you
    to be happy, so do him the honor of being so.

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