Are you mourning the loss of your service dog? Are you looking for resources to help you with the grief you are feeling?
Your service dog was your dedicated helper and confident. He or she assisted you with every part of your life with dedication. Your service dog was always faithful and loyal and was there for you every minute of every day.
You can become attached to your service dog. That is why service dog loss can be an especially difficult blow. When your four-legged assistant has to leave this earth, you may find your sense of loss to be overwhelming.
Mourning The Loss Of Your Service Dog
This journey is complex and comes with some unique challenges. This is because:
- You are grieving a best friend and your helper.
- You may also have to get a replacement service dog before you are ready.
- The loss can feel like you are losing the center of your universe.
Please Keep This In Mind
It is important to honor your grief and allow the mourning the loss of your service dog to happen for your heart heal. Don’t believe myths about pet loss grief and especially don’t feel guilty or somehow silly for grieving your service dog like a person. Your grief is valid and everything you are going through is normal.
Here Are A Few Ways You Can Get Through This Tragedy
And heal yourself from within. Mourning the loss of your service dog is hardly easy, but you don’t have to lock in the pain. Mourning is the open aspect of grief, an outward display of your feelings. It can provide a cathartic release that helps you process your emotions and move forward. Mourning your service dog should heal you, rather than hurt you.
- Take Time to Grieve
Losing a service dog can feel raw, painful, and leave you feeling helpless. You will need some time to process your emotions and recover your sense of balance.
You may need to take time off of work. You can politely decline social invitations to stay home. Do what you need to do to help your heart and soul heal from this loss. Taking on stress from everyday life may not be helpful or practical. However, if work and getting out helps you feel better, then by all means, do it.
The seven stages of grief will also happen: Shock, denial, guilt, anger and bargaining, depression and loneliness, and reconstruction. These stages may not happen in that order. Understand that these feelings are a normal and common part of grief. Accept your feelings without telling yourself that you are wrong.
Understand that there is no timeline. You will miss your service dog for the rest of your life. But it is also okay to start to feelbetter and resume your life as before. Your dog would not want you to put life on hold forever for him or her.
My book has helped many people with understanding the grief they are going through.
- Celebrate His or Her Life
You must take some time for mourning the loss of your service dog. But you must also dedicate some time to celebrating his or her life.
Consider writing his breeder a letter of thanks. If an organization trained him, you can reach out to them with gratitude, too.
Think about the good times you shared. Write a poem or a journal entry detailing your good memories and the things you loved about him. Cherish those memories more than the grief.
When you feel guilty, remember how well you treated your helper. You made him or her happy, too. And you provided your helper with a job that he or she loved doing.
- Memorialize Your Pet
The single most helpful way I recommend mourning the loss of your service dog is memorializing him or her. Just as there is no single right way to grieve, there is no single right way to memorialize your beloved service dog. Do something that reflects your unique bond with your helper and makes you feel as if you are honoring his or her service to you.
A candlelit vigil is beautiful option to celebrate your helper’s life and keep his or her spirit alive in your home. You can do this as long as you need to. A candlelit vigil can keep you feeling safe, as it keeps your service dog’s spiritual presence in your home. Blow out the candle and say good-bye when you feel ready.
You can put up pictures and/or write a pet loss poem. Both things give you tangible items to remember your service dog by. For holidays, you can create a decoration dedicated to him or her.
- Don’t Feel Guilty About Getting Another Service Dog
The most common issue I see with people grieving service dogs is guilt over gaining a new service dog. I always encourage my clients to get a new dog when they are ready, but this option may not be possible if you rely on a service dog heavily for your needs.
Remember…you are not replacing your service dog. Your service dog will always be special in his or her own way.
Also, remember how loving and forgiving your service dog is in spirit. Your helper will not be hurt when you find a new service dog. Instead, he or she will be relieved that you continue getting the care that you need. Your service dog’s number one job was you and that does not end just because he or she has reached the end of their life.
A new service dog may not feel right at first. As you yearn for your old friend, you may find issues with your new service dog. You may also feel guilty for not loving your new dog as much as your old one. Realize that with time, you will fall into a routine with your new service dog and develop a bond that will be unique and different from the bond you shared with your original buddy.
- Seek Support
The main thing that makes pet loss grief so difficult is the belief that you are alone. I am here to tell you that you are not alone. Many people have gone through what you have, and many people are there for you.
My services are always available to you. My goal is to help you heal and reach a state of acceptance and self-love after losing your service dog. You can always turn to my courses, books, poems, and other resources to help you through mourning your service dog.
There are also many support groups out there. You can find online or in-person groups of people who have had service dogs. They can lend you awesome support and help you realize that your grief journey, though unique, is sacred and normal. However, be cautious of support groups and be sure the person leading them is trained.
Wendy Van de Poll, MS, CEOL is a certified pet loss grief coach, bestselling author, animal medium and communicator. Through her experience and working with others she teaches folks… grief needs attention so that it can teach the profound lessons of life. You can reach Wendy by clicking here. She also has many books on Amazon to help you on your journey. Her newest is Pet Loss Poems: To Heal Your Heart and Soul