• Paul Barnes

Healing From Pet Loss

Updated: Aug 4, 2019

Healing from the loss of a pet can be very difficult and traumatic, especially when people don't seem to understand what you're going through. My partner and I have had two dogs together, Roscoe and Trixie. We lost both to cancer. It was the most difficult thing I've ever been through. Friends try to be kind and want to help but their comments can seem cruel and hurtful if they don't understand the loss of a pet.

I'd often hear things like:

  • Are you getting another one?

  • Did you have to put them down?

  • Animals are "like" family.

  • I'm sorry for your loss but will you be in the office today?

You see, for those of us that truly love animals, they are our family. They are our children. They're not just pets or something you forget about or get over immediately when they're gone.

I actually think the grieving process after losing a pet is much more difficult because you don't have the same support group you do when you lose a family member. You're expected to move on quickly and forget about them. You don't get the support of having a memorial. If you do, friends and family think you're weird. They think you don't care about people as much as animals. Honestly, it's not that I care about people less, it's that I care about animals as much.

Our pets give us something that people aren't able to give us. They give us unconditional love! It's something all of us yearn for but so few of us experience it. Those of us who have had pets know that feeling. We know what it's like to be loved unconditionally. When we lose it, our hearts are broken.

There is a beautiful poem written called Rainbow Bridge. The author is unknown. I told a friend who lost his dog this week that I think the poem was a gift from an angel. It's a gift to help us heal and understand where our pets go. We all have our own spiritual and religious beliefs but I believe in my heart that I'll be with my dogs one day. That brings me comfort. Below is the actual poem:

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water, and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.

Author Unknown

So how do you get through it? How do you heal? My first answer is that it takes time. Everyone is different. Each day becomes a little easier until you begin to heal and remember the happy times and the love your pet gave you.

The loss seems unbearable at times but I often think, what if they had been with someone else? Would they have had the special life I gave them? It gives me great comfort knowing that I was fortunate enough to have them in my life. I was the one that made their life so special. I was the one that was able to give them comfort in their final days and repay them for all the joy and unconditional love they gave me.

As I said, everyone is different. Do what brings you comfort, not what you think is expected of you. Here are a few things I've done and things you can do to heal:

  • Have a Memorial - Don't worry about what anyone else thinks. Have a memorial for your pet. I wanted to celebrate my pets lives. I have a very special urn for each of their remains which has great meaning to me. Roscoe's favorite toy was a stuffed zebra. His remains are in a black and white zebra marble urn. Trixie had a heart shape on her side and her remains are in an urn with a heart and a lotus flower. We bought flowers to celebrate their lives when we brought their remains home.

  • Create a Scrapbook or Photo Album - If you have pictures, create a scrapbook or photo album showing all those special moments you shared together. Just thumbing through those old pictures has brought me many tears but laughter and joy as well.

  • Continue to Celebrate Their Lives - You don't have to stop celebrating their birthday or a special day. Hang a stocking for them on Christmas. Buy flowers in memory of their birthday. You can continue to celebrate their lives and the memories you shared.

  • Start a Journal - Start a journal and record those memories. Write them a letter and tell them about your day or something special you recall about them. It can be very comforting and healing just to put those thoughts on paper. I personally feel like they hear me.

  • Donate to a Charity in Their Honor - Consider making a donation to a pet charity. I lost Roscoe and Trixie to cancer so I wanted to give back to research for cancer in dogs.

  • Consider Loving Another Pet - You may or may not want another pet. You'll know when and if the time comes. You can never replace them just as you could never replace a person. However, I knew that I still had a tremendous amount of love to give. I could provide an amazing home for a dog and love them as nobody else could. The funny thing is that no matter how much I love them, it still doesn't measure up to the unconditional love they always give me.

  • Hypnosis - You may also want to consider hypnosis. Hypnosis can help you with the grieving process. It can help you heal and remember all those special moments you and your pet shared together. Through guided imagery, you could even visit the Rainbow Bridge.

Do the things that bring you peace and celebrate your pets life. More importantly, follow your heart.

To find out more about hypnosis or to schedule a session, visit

© 2019 Paul Barnes

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