Spiritual Ways to Survive Pet Loss

spiritual pet loss

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

Stop replaying the “if only” scenarios and trust 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.

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.

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.

Take time every 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.

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. “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.”

Kurz’s book offers many spiritual ways to survive pet loss — he is a pastor and dog lover. He believes our family pets are healthier and happier than ever before because they’re at home with God.

Consider adopting 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 LossIt’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?

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10 Reader Comments

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  1. Laurie says:

    Dear Debi,

    Thank you for being here, and for sharing about Terry. I have a terrier, too, and I know my life will feel empty when she’s gone.

    He loved you so much, whether or not you were walking him in the last few weeks of his life! You took care of him for so many years, and he knew it.

    You loved him with all your heart, and Terry knew that. He knew he was the love of your life, and now he is in good Hands. He is happily doing whatever God created him to do, and he is watching you with love and compassion.

    I hope you are able to forgive yourself, Debi. I don’t think you did anything wrong, but I totally understand those guilty feelings.

    I wrote this article – it may help you:

    http://theadventurouswriter.com/blog/guilty-feelings-after-cat-dog-dies-pet-loss-guilt/

    Please come back anytime, let me know how you’re doing.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  2. Debi says:

    I lost my precious 15-year old male mixed terrior, Terry, on May 20. He died of kidney failure. He was truly my little soul mate, a wonderful and loving little guy, and I miss him terribly. The worst part is that I had stopped taking him for walks in the last months of his life, as I had been too “lazy”, and basically had a lack of energy going through a lot of financial hardships. His whole life I was a great “mommy” to him, but I can’t quit feeling quilty of the last time I put my shoes on (about 3 weeks ago) and he got excited for a walk, I just told him that we’ll go soon, but we never did. Now I’ll never be able to make it up to him and it’s killing me!!!!

  3. Laurie says:

    Dear Kelly,

    There is nothing that hurts quite like losing a dog, because dogs depend on us for everything and love us unconditionally. I’m sorry your coworkers don’t understand that it’s impossible to just get another dog, like getting a new pair of shoes!

    Your dog loved you like nobody will ever love you. Dogs offer us such an extreme loyalty and dedication, we feel like our hearts are being torn out when we lose them.

    My heart goes out to you, as you adjust to life without April. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  4. Kelly Mastriana says:

    I have never done anything like this before, because I am a very private person, but the loss of my baby girl is too much to bear. During my life I have been heartbroken, betrayed, and even stolen from by several human beings. I began to hate everyone, until I realized how much my beautiful border collie, April, loved me. She taught me to be patient and tolerant and accept that people don’t really like me or want to be with me. She not only liked to be with me she couldn’t stand to be without me. We went everywhere together, we were each other’s shadow. I am trying very hard not to be mean to my co-workers who keep saying ” just get another dog”, but their insensitivity just feeds my sadness. April was and will always be the joy of my life. I am just such a mess. i don’t know what to do.

  5. Laurie says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, ginger. My husband often goes away on business trips, and I always pray that nothing will happen to our cat or dog when he’s gone. I never know if I should wait until he gets home to share the bad news, or tell him when he’s gone. I think I’d wait, like your parents did, because there’s nothing he can do about it when he’s away. And yet, I know he’d rather know…so maybe I would tell him after all.

    I believe in God and heaven and an afterlife, and I believe I will mean my long-lost dogs and cats there after I die. I believe animals have souls and spirits, and they live on long after their bodies have left our earth.

  6. ginger says:

    I agree that losing a pet is one of the most difficult things to deal with in life. I lost my dog, Patrick many years ago. I was in college and my parents didn’t tell me that he had passed away. I thought he was in the animal hospital until I asked my mother when he would be coming home and saw the look of distress on her face. My parents were trying to protect me for a time since I was in school and finishing the semester, Still, it was so heartbreaking.

    My cat, Sandy a sweetheart of almost 14 years, had to be put to sleep in July of 2011. This was one of the most difficult times of my life. I saw him suffer from Diabetes that couldn’t be controlled. I miss him every minute of every day, but know that he is in Heaven and that I will see him again someday. I try to focus on the fact that he is with Jesus and that he is perfect now. Sandy can never be replaced, but I have since adopted two abandoned kittens. At first, I didn’t think I could take another cat, but both of these needed homes so much. I like to think of them as Sandy’s “little brothers”. fI swill love Sandy forever, but believe that he and God want me to care for these kittens.

  7. Thanks, Joyce. I don’t know if losing a family pet is the worst thing a person can go through, but it is one of the worst for sure!

    I think tapping into your spirituality is the best way to cope with the loss of a pet. I like to think that my lost dog and cats are in Heaven, and that I’ll be reunited with them one day. I pray for my dog and cat all the time – my living ones! I think they bring an aspect to my spiritual life that brings me closer to God.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  8. Joyce says:

    The loss of a family pet is one of the worst experiences that anyone can go through. They say that time heals all wounds. This is the third time we are undergoing this experience and it seems to get tougher each time.

  9. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Thanks for your comment, Amy…yes, pet loss really can be so difficult for people. We can get help and support from others who have lost their beloved animals, but our mourning really is individual.

  10. Amy says:

    Losing a pet can be one of the most difficult times a person can go through. Most people consider their pets to be part of the family, and losing a family member is always a difficult time to go through…

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