If you accidentally hurt or killed your dog – or you decided to put your dog to sleep and regret it – you may be consumed with guilt and grief. Here’s help for dealing with guilt after you caused your dog’s death.
In Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die, Jon Katz addresses the difficult but necessary topic of saying goodbye to a beloved pet. Accidentally killing your dog is an extremely painful experience, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Jon draws on personal experiences, stories from fellow pet owners, and philosophical reflections to help pet owners grieve the loss of their dogs. He gently asks readers to consider if they gave their dogs good lives and if they used their best judgment in the end. In dealing with these issues, you will deal with guilt about your dog’s death, and let go of the pain.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Read through the comments section below, and you’ll see that accidentally killing your dog was a tragic mistake that happens to more people than you realize.
These tips for dealing with guilt after you caused your dog’s death are inspired by a reader who shared his guilty feelings about putting his dog to sleep. Saying good-bye to your beloved dog is heartbreaking – and it’s even worse if you feel guilty about your pet’s death. I hope these tips help.
Dealing With Guilt After Causing Your Dog’s Death
Some people accidentally kill their dog by accidentally leaving them in harm’s way. The most important thing to remember is that you did NOT purposely cause your pet’s death. Dealing with guilt may be a bit lighter if you know you would’ve acted differently if you had the chance. If your actions led to your pet’s death, you have to keep reminding yourself that you did not deliberately harm your dog. It was an accident, and you would have done things differently if you had know what would happen.
If you’re struggling with grief and guilty feelings because of the circumstances surrounding your dog’s death, read Letting Go of an Animal You Love: 75 Ways to Survive Pet Loss. I interviewed veterinarians, grief counselors, and pet experts for the best ways to survive the death of a beloved dog, and I included stories from real pet owners who coped with guilt and grief in sometimes surprising ways.
Identify “imagined” guilt about your dog’s death
Not recognizing that your Yorkie, Doberman, or terrier was ill doesn’t mean that you weren’t paying attention or taking good care of him or her! This is imagined guilt. Animals can’t always communicate their physical health; pet owners can’t see inside their bodies and brains.
Another type of “imagined” guilt is if you’ve accidentally caused your pet’s death by letting him out, keeping him in, or losing track of his whereabouts. If you did not deliberately set out to harm your pet, then you have nothing to feel guilty about. I know this is easier said than done – and it takes effort to forgive yourself.
If you’re dealing with imagined guilt because of your dog’s death, remember that sometimes illness or disease overcomes our dogs and other beloved pets…and there’s nothing we can do. This loss of control is a very painful — but real — part of life.
I recently wrote How to Forgive Yourself for Not Protecting Your Dog, to help you deal with the guilt you feel. Please take a moment to read it — it’s the comments on this article that inspired me to write it.
Remember that it’s normal to feel guilty when your dog dies
Whether your guilt is real or imagined, know that it is a normal grief reaction. Even the most “innocent” pet owners feel guilt over a pet’s death. For instance, I now cringe when I recall how angry I was at my beloved cat, Zoey, for scratching the basement door (I didn’t realize the door to her litter box was shut tight, and she couldn’t get in). That was over 12 years ago, and I still feel guilty! Healing after you had to put your pet down often requires forgiving yourself.
Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet is the number one bestselling book on pet loss and grief on Amazon. I love the book because it offers both heartwarming stories and practical guidance on grieving the loss of a pet. It’ll help you deal with guilt when you caused your pet’s death.
Identify “real” guilt about accidentally killing your dog
Real guilt may spring from your feelings that you neglected your dog annual vaccinations, daily food intake, exercise habits, and “quality time” with you. If you’re struggling with real guilt, remember that you had reasons for doing what you did. The stress of money, work, kids, marriage, and daily life may have taken precedence over how you treated your pet. Maybe you didn’t make the best choices.
Healing after your pet’s death involves accepting that you wish you would’ve done things differently — and talking this through with your family, friends, or loved ones.
Remember what you did right — because you did a lot right
Your dog loved you beyond all reason – so you must have done something right. How did you love and take care of your pet? Balance your real guilt with the real ways you loved your pet. You took good care of your dog in many ways; don’t wave that away.
Dealing with guilt when you caused your dog’s death isn’t just about grieving; it’s about cherishing the best parts of your life with your dog. If you feel like you’ll never be happy again, read Can’t Live Without Your Dog? How to Survive Your Pet’s Death.
Do you feel like you caused your dog’s death? I encourage you to share your experience below. Talking and writing about it is healthier than ignoring it, and can help you process your grief. I can’t offer advice on what to do about accidentally killing your dog, but it may help you to share what happened. Sometimes writing brings clarity and insight.
May you forgive yourself after your dog’s death. Know that your dog has forgiven you, and your dog knows it was an accident! You would never have hurt your dog if you knew what was going to happen. Your dog is free and happy now, and resting in peace. May God give you peace, heal your soul, and help you open your heart to love another dog.
“If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there,” says Pam Brown. “Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them.”