It’s said that dogs leave pawprints on your heart. When your Golden Retriever passes away, it can feel like you lost a member of your family—because you did. While I can’t take your pain away, there are some ways to help you heal as you grieve the loss of your Golden Retriever.
When grieving the loss of your Golden Retriever, everyone will find comfort in their own way. Allowing yourself to experience all your emotions without judgment, knowing that healing takes time, and finding ways to remember your pet are a few of the ways that can help you cope with the pain.
The experience of grief is unique for each person, so sadly, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to healing. Having gone through this twice myself, there is no clear cut set of instructions on dealing with loss, but I can offer suggestions on how to cope with the pain of losing your furry friend.
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Remember There Are No Right or Wrong Emotions
As you cope with the loss of your Golden Retriever, it’s important to remember that there are no wrong feelings. Everybody reacts differently to grief—allow yourself to sit with the emotions you are experiencing without judging yourself. It’s okay to laugh and smile or be angry. It’s okay if you don’t cry, and it’s equally okay if you sob for hours on end.
Let Yourself Mourn
Your Golden Retriever is a member of your family, so it’s okay to grieve them as such. Dogs are more than just pets. They are always there to listen to your problems, cuddle with you on a bad day, and welcome you home after a long day at work. Maybe you refer to them as your child or your sibling, or perhaps as your best friend.
No matter what others say, your Golden was never “just” a pet. It’s not ridiculous or absurd for you to feel emotions. You may even experience the five stages of grief. Give yourself space to sit with your feelings, and never judge yourself! It will take time before things start to feel better.
Ignore Others Invalidating Your Loss
The last thing you need while coping with grief is for others to make your pain feel insignificant. Unfortunately, some people might try to tell you it’s “just a pet” or that you need to “get over it.”
Your loss is important and significant. You did lose a member of your family and a best friend, and your pain is not up for debate. It’s best not to engage, and rather, seek love and comfort from those closest to you who understand.
Don’t Blame Yourself
When it comes to the loss of your Golden, it seems guilt always shows up. Whether you feel responsible for what happened or you are upset that you didn’t spend more time with your Golden, keep in mind that nothing is your fault.
If euthanasia was involved, these emotions might feel particularly intense. However, you are not a bad person for this. In fact, you made the incredibly difficult decision to put your Golden out of their pain. That is one of the hardest choices you could have to make, but you did it out of love and empathy.
The Healing Process Will Take Time – And That’s Okay!
As much as you’d like to go back to being your happy-go-lucky self in an instant, that’s just not realistic. Putting pressure on yourself or loved ones to heal quickly may actually slow down the healing process. And though you might be tempted to fill the void with another Golden, this might not be the best decision.
Your Golden is unique and special. No one else can replace them. Adopting a new furry friend too soon might lead you to neglect your new family member’s care or cause resentment when they don’t behave the way your old friend did.
Let Yourself Laugh
The sadness you’re feeling right now is insurmountable, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have bursts of happiness. If you come across a funny video on Instagram, you’re allowed to laugh at it. It doesn’t minimize the heartbreak you’re feeling, but it might offer just a moment of necessary reprieve.
Reflect on Your Favorite Memories
It’s important to remember the amazing moments you spent with your Golden Retriever. Sit around with people who also loved them and share some smiles with the dog you all know and love. Recollect the times you and your Golden raced each other down the beach, the way they always rolled around in filthy mud puddles and shook all over you, and the time they ate all the meatballs off the counter.
It might be hard to think of these memories at first, but you keep your pup alive in your heart. Their legacy lives on because of you.
Choose a Special Resting Place
Pick a spot to bury or spread the ashes of your Golden. There is probably somewhere that comes to mind when you think of your dog’s favorite place to be. Maybe it’s by the lake they first learned to swim in or at the base of a tree they were always drawn to.
Though it’s hard to feel like you’re saying a final goodbye, this is a spot you can visit when you need to feel a little closer to your Golden. As much as this is a place for them to rest, it’s one for you as well.
Do Something to Commemorate Your Golden
Create something that makes it feel like your pup is with you every day. Add their tag to your keychain, get a tattoo of their paw print, or hang your favorite photo of the two of you on your wall. Having a little piece of your Golden with you at all times might be the bit of reassurance you need to remember they’re only a thought away.
Express Your Pain
Lots of people find art to be very healing when faced with grief and devastation. This might speak to you or look different depending on what feels right. What’s important is that you find a way to express your pain and release it.
Maybe this looks like writing a poem, journaling, or painting. For you, it might even be going for a run, meditating, or dancing. Sometimes, it can be as simple as talking to a family member, friend, or loved one.
Find a Community
When feeling any intense emotion, especially grief, talking to people who understand what you’re experiencing is hugely beneficial. Knowing that there are others out there like you takes some of the loneliness out of it all.
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There are many forums out there that deal with pet grief, such as Grief Healing Discussion Groups’ Loss of a Pet or Rainbow Bridge’s Pet Loss Forum. On these, you can freely share your thoughts and hardships with others who have gone through the same thing. Having a community of like-minded individuals makes a world of difference.
We wish there was one easy way for you to cope with the loss of your Golden Retriever, but the healing process is truly unique. What helps others might not help you, so it’s important to be gentle with yourself as you find ways of healing that work for you.
Remember that your emotions are always valid, and anything you’re feeling is normal. There is no way you “should” be feeling or acting. Surrounding yourself with others who understand what you’re going through and finding special ways to remember your loved pup are some of the best things you can do for yourself.
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