Believing in an afterlife or heaven doesn’t erase the pain of pet loss, but it helps. These spiritual ways to survive pet loss include prayer, thoughts of heaven, and memorial services or “celebrations of life” for your dear departed dog or cat.
“No one can say how long we will mourn [pet loss],” writes Gary Kowalski in Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet. “Grieving may commonly be measured in days or weeks, but it can be months, or even longer. Many people report feeling ‘choked up’ by the memory of a beloved pet years after the animal is gone.”
Yes, it’s true that the pain of pet loss can last for years — but there are things you can do to make surviving the loss of a family pet easier. And one of those things is holding on to the hope that your pet is in heaven – or somewhere – waiting for you.
Animals and the Afterlife: True Stories of Our Best Friends’ Journey Beyond Death describes meaningful and heartwarming true stories of people’s experience with their animals after they passed on. This book will increase your faith in the afterlife for your pet, and help you mourn your pet’s death.
Spiritual Ways to Survive Pet Loss
1. Stop replaying the “if only” scenarios and remember that God is in control. “If I only I would’ve known my pet was sick, I would have acted differently…” We can only see clearly when we look back on what’s happened – because hindsight is 20/20, my friend. There is no value in replaying the “if only” scenarios when you’re surviving the loss of a family pet…unless you replay them with a happier ending! Instead of looking back at the “if onlys”, focus on saying good-bye to your dog or cat — perhaps with a pet memorial service. Remember that God is in control, and your life – and your pet’s death – is unfolding the way He intends.
2. Plan a memorial service or “celebration of life.” “A memorial can be solitary, or friends and family may also gather in farewell,” writes Kowalski in Goodbye, Friend. “Coming to terms with the death may be especially difficult ofr those who lack the chance to say a personal goodbye.” Memorials can include a period of silence, a brief time for sharing, a eulogy, reading, prayer. Acknowledge loss and honor your memories. Express hope for the future, with an affirmation of life ahead. Focusing on what Heaven means to you and your pet is a spiritual way to survive pet loss for many mourning pet owners.
3. Avoid making major life decisions. This is a tip for when your dog or cat dies that I read over and over in my pet loss books: it’s not usually a good idea to make any major decisions in the period immediately following a the loss of a family pet. Our judgment frequently suffers when we are under stress. If possible, postpone making any big changes in your life. Stick to the familiar, and hold tight to God and your spiritual routine (eg, prayer, church, Bible Study). This is probably not the moment to replace your family pet, for instance, nor is it the time to vow that you will never have another. Allow yourself time to absorb and adjust to the situation. This isn’t the best time to make career changes, relationship decisions, or move to a new city.
4. Take time every hour – on the hour – to pray or meditate. Both meditation and prayer have been found to reduce stress, increase feelings of well-being, offer deep relaxation, reduce depression, and increase self-confidence and self-love. You don’t have to be religious or even spiritual to benefit from meditation when you’re mourning the loss of your family pet. Connecting to a higher power such as God, the Universe, or Allah can get you through the worst parts of your grief. Friends, family members, and spouses can be a great source of spiritual strength and comfort – especially if they’re open to praying or meditating with you.
5. Picture your family pet in a place far sweeter than earth…Heaven!. “Hold them in your heart, but know that physically they are in another place, a place far superior to the one they left,” writes Gary Kurz in Cold Noses At The Pearly Gates (a book that offers many spiritual ways to survive pet loss; the author is a pastor and dog lover). “Suffice it to say that they are alive and well; and know that I would never say anything of such gravity if I were not absolutely sure of the facts.” Your family pet is healthier and happier than ever before because he’s at home in Heaven with your God!
6. Consider rescuing a pet in need. “A friend of mine, Pam, gave me the greatest advice when I lost my pet,” says Paige Eissinger, owner of 2 Smart Chix LLC. “She told me to go get another kitten. Her reasoning was that Zoe gave me so much love and happiness in the 13 years she lived with me that it would be a shame to deprive myself of that type of relationship just because Zoe was gone. She was absolutely right. I never replaced Zoe in my heart, but I have opened my heart to several other kittens.” This tip for surviving pet loss doesn’t work for everyone, but has been incredibly helpful for some people.
“Time always brings eventual relief from the pain and your life will return to normal,” writes Kurz. “There will be a time when you feel guilty for feeling better, but even that will pass. Nothing will ever take away the sense of absence, but the disabling and relentless grief will subside and eventually disappear. I know it may not seem that way now, but…it has proven true every time.”
I interviewed veterinarians, pet loss experts, grief specialists, and dozens of pet owners so I could write Letting Go of an Animal You Love: 75 Ways to Survive Pet Loss. It’s an ebook that will help you heal and cope with the death of the animal you loved with all your heart.
Do you believe in an afterlife or heaven for your pets? If so, does that belief help you mourn your pet’s death?