15 Tools after the Death of a Senior Dog [Free Infographic]

How do you cope with the loss of a senior dog? Find 15 pet loss grief tools to help you move forward after the death of a senior dog. Free PDF download "6 Most Common Signs from Your Departed Pet."

Katie Abendroth

4/19/20245 min read

15 pet loss grief tools after the death of a senior dog15 pet loss grief tools after the death of a senior dog

15 Pet Loss Grief Tools

1. Look for Signs

Pet owners have long found poems like the Rainbow Bridge comforting because they convey that your animal companion is just beyond the veil and waiting to reconnect with you. Have you encountered signs that remind you of your pet?

In a recent post, people in my @hope_after_pet_loss community in Instagram reported the following signs of their dog's unconditional love: rainbows, butterflies, the color yellow, and shooting stars. If you do see a recurring item, image, or number that brings you comfort, lean into it and embrace the connection as a source of comfort during this difficult time. 

Scroll to the bottom of this article to download a free PDF "6 Most Common Signs from Your Departed Pet."

2. Set a Timer

As you move through the stages of grief and your emotional pain, it can help to set aside time for grief after the initial shock passes. Counselors often recommend setting a timer to manage your grief, allowing yourself 15-30 minutes of uninterrupted reflections about the good times or your own grief.

When the time is up, try to put intense grief on a "shelf" until the same time tomorrow. This frees up some cognitive energy for you to create new daily routines, and helps reduce anxiety and overwhelm. 

3. Forest Bathing

Forest bathing is a Japanese concept described here. Forest bathing is all about connecting with nature in your own way and spending time outside, which is a great place to process feelings.

If you are having a hard time getting started exercising, or feel stuck scrolling social media, forest bathing can be the mental reset you need during this difficult grief process. For older adults who have had a senior pet for a long time, forest bathing is a gentle way to reconnect with nature and get outside. 

4. Maintain Daily Routines

One of the hardest parts of losing a long time beloved pet, is how they were woven into daily routines. Try to maintain daily routines in different ways, perhaps participating in forest bathing at dawn rather than your previous dog walk.

If your dog was sick for a long time, you may have caregiver fatigue and need to take care of yourself despite the loss of your special bond. Encourage your human family members to wake up, make beds, shower, get dressed, and get outside every day as you all develop new routines. 

5. Understand the Grieving Process

There are multiple types of grief, described here. For example, if your senior pet was sick for a long time you likely experienced anticipatory grief as the end of their long life approached. When they do pass away, you may feel exhausted and fatigued because you spent so much emotional energy preparing for the death of a pet.

However, understanding the grieving process can help immensely as you process your pet's death and understand the natural cycle of emotion. 

6. Forgive Yourself

The loss of your pet, if they were senior dogs, often occurs when owners choose euthanasia. However, euthanasia can result in guilt and physical symptoms of trauma if you are highly sensitive.

It is okay to recognize grief is a complicated process and feelings of guilt are a normal way of your brain trying to make sense of a great loss. 

7. Pet Grief Counselors

If you are experience disenfranchised grief, meaning people do not understand the depth of your grief, professional pet grief counselors may offer the support you need.

These counselors can help provide you social support, or if you have children, support a child's first experience with grief. 

8. Pet Memorial Service

Having a memorial service for your pet's life honors the human-animal bond and gives your family a way to celebrate the memory of your pet. A pet memorial can include flowers, pictures, candles, an urn, or an outdoor garden that gives you a place to honor their memory and reflect on their life.

I also created a Memory Wall on this website that you can use to post a virtual candle and pet obituary and picture of your pet. 

9. Journal

I believe journaling is the most important thing you can do to celebrate the life of your beloved dog. If you had your senior dog for over a decade, they were your constant life companion.

You can write to them, journal about them, or journal feelings about the right time to get a new dog. On my hopeafterpetloss.com site, you can find free journal prompts to download on our Resources page. 

For even more journal prompts and action checklists, check out my updated and expanded e-book, Coping with Pet Loss Grief, here. Use Discount Code SAVE50 for 50% off.

10. Community Outreach

If you have a long time canine companion, they made you a better person. The best way to honor their memory is to carry that forward into community outreach. Whether you walk dogs for a rescue, donate money to a dog non-profit, or simply choose random acts of kindness, this celebrates the unique joy your pet provided. 

11. Garden

Creating a garden or nurturing plants is another way to connect with nature and slow down while you are in the midst of grief. Gardening gives you some physical activity, can provide a social circle, and much needed sunshine to release mood-boosting hormones. There is also something reassuring about the full cycle of life that blooming plants represent. 

12. Create a Work of Art

Pet dogs have provided companionship to humans for over 15,000 years, so we are hard-wired to love our furry friends. Finding a creative outlet to process the loss of a pet is healthy and proactive.

Whether you try meditative coloring books, painting, or pottery, using your hands to create works of art boosts your mind and heart as you heal. Art also provides a way to give back to others by creating beautiful gifts for friends in your community. 

13. Yoga or Tai Chi

Slow movement-based practices like yoga and tai chi have brought comfort to people for thousands of years. After the loss of a companion animal, you may have more time to focus on human relationships and more free time. This new freedom can provide you an opportunity to try a new hobby and connect with others; both yin yoga and tai chi are gentle options. 

14. Meditate or Pray

Taking time to reflect, whether through prayer or reflection, helps you identify your emotional needs. If you follow a faith tradition, this can be a great source of comfort during times of grief. 

15. Pet Loss Support Group

Senior pets have accompanied you through many life changes and stages of growth. Pet loss support groups and other social media support communities can offer a safe place to heal and comfort you, along with discussion group topics that may be helpful.

I offer a Hope After Pet Loss Support Group that you can learn more about here.

In our private, respectful community will get twice monthly live meetings, a private Facebook community page, weekly resources for members only, and find friendship with others who understand your pain.

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15 pet loss grief tools after the death of a senior dog
15 pet loss grief tools after the death of a senior dog