You are normal if you’re filled with regret and guilt after putting your dog to sleep. How do you find peace of mind? You can’t change the past, and deep down you know you made the right decision. It was time for your dog to stop living, but you can’t live without your dog.
For many dog owners, “pet loss grief” is compounded by guilt and regret after they put their dogs to sleep. This is because our dogs are a huge part of our lives, every minute of the day. And, our dogs often change who we are. That’s why finding peace of mind after putting our dogs to sleep is so difficult.
“Our pets lead us from patience to love, and then to loss….but it is always a journey worth taking,” is the inscription on the Paw in Hand Devotion Garden Stone – a keepsake that is a lovely way to remember a beloved dog. Finding peace of mind after putting your dog to sleep isn’t about suppressing memories or avoiding the pain. Peace of mind comes when you walk through the grief and guilt until you reach the light on the other side.
Here’s a reader’s question on How to Deal With Guilty Feelings After Your Dog’s Death: “I had to put two of my dogs down and it was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever had to do. One of my dogs we’ve had for 17 years. Saying goodbye was unbearable. She was blind and going deaf. She would go to the bathroom on herself and it was hard to see my dog suffering but what was worse was putting her down! My other dog was 12 years old and he had arthritis really bad. I was there as they were going to sleep and saw the life leave their eyes. I crawled into a ball just bawling in the middle of the room. I am suffering from nightmares now. The guilt I feel is unbearable. How do I find peace of mind after putting a dog to sleep?”
There are no easy answers.
Finding Peace of Mind After Putting Your Dog to Sleep
It’s sad, but true: saying good-bye to a dog you love is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever experience. Grieving pet loss is surprisingly painful and difficult for people — even dog owners who thought they were prepared to put their dogs to sleep.
I can’t offer you peace of mind, but I can share several ideas for coping with grief, guilt and pain of putting a dog to sleep.
1. Understand why peace of mind is hard to find after your dog’s death
Putting a dog to sleep is devastating because they are woven into our daily lives. My dogs go on most of my errands with me – to the bank, library, church, and even my vacations. They’re almost always by my side. That’s why it’s hard to know how to find peace of mind. After putting a dog to sleep, we lose a crucial part of our lives. Losing a constant companion is like losing a limb.
And, we’re deeply attached to our dogs on an emotional level. Dogs are a constant source of unconditional love, loyalty, physical affection, and laughter. They’re vulnerable and authentic, dependent and invaluable. Putting a dog down is like shutting off a light that has burned brightly in our hearts and lives…and this, too, is why it’s hard to know how to find peace of mind.
If you feel responsible for putting a dog to sleep, you may find it helpful to read Dealing With Guilt When You Caused Your Dog’s Death helpful.
2. Write an eulogy or tribute for your dog
An eulogy – a speech or piece of writing that highly praises a person who has just died – can be one of the most healing ways to find peace of mind. After you put your dog to sleep, you may feel regret and guilt. Writing an eulogy can help you move from regret to loving, kind memories of your dog. The very act of writing will help your brain process the shock of your dog’s death and the pain of deciding to put your dog down. You may not find it easy to put your feelings into words, but the emotional expression will slowly calm and soothe your spirit and soul. This will help you find peace of mind.
A Pet Memorial Stone is a beautiful reminder of the dog you loved and lost. A beautiful, touching memory can help you find peace of mind by reminding you that your dog is sleeping now. Resting in peace somewhere else, but leaving paw prints on your heart forever.
3. Express yourself fully and creatively in your dog’s eulogy
How do you write a tribute or eulogy for your dog? Answer some or all of these questions:
- Who was your dog? Think of his personality, bad and good habits, likes, dislikes, pet peeves, quirks, strengths, weaknesses.
- What was your dog’s favorite toy or game? Maybe it’s napping or barking at squirrels, like my dog.
- Describe how your dog was part of your daily life. What will you miss most? Is there anything you won’t miss about your dog?
- Was your dog’s death a surprise, or were you prepared to put your dog to sleep? How did the circumstances of your dog’s death affect your ability to find peace of mind?
- How did you adopt or find your dog? Tell the story of bringing your dog home.
- How did your dog change your life?
It should take several hours to answer these questions! Finding peace of mind after putting your dog to sleep isn’t one-stop shop. Don’t try to write the whole thing in a single session; give yourself at least a week or two to work through your dog’s eulogy. Allow yourself to re-experience the grief and guilt of putting your dog to sleep. Experiencing your pain hurts, but it’s how you’ll find peace of mind. Walk through your feelings of shock, devastation, anger, and despair without trying to run away or hide.
4. Allow yourself as much time as you need to grieve
You will eventually begin to find peace of mind – which is not the same as remembering your dog’s death with joy! Peace of mind means you accept the decision you made to put your dog down, and you know you made the best decision you could at the time.
Different people take different amounts of time to grieve. Expect your grief to take as long as it takes. And, expect your grief to come and go in stages. You may feel overwhelmed with grief suddenly, in unexpected places. You may feel an overwhelming peace of mind when you least expect it! Putting your dog down is a life-changing event. Getting “over” your grief is not an overnight romp in the park.
You might also consider planning a short memorial service for your dog. Read Pet Sympathy Gifts to Ease the Pain of a Dog or Cat’s Death for ideas on how to say goodbye.
5. Say goodbye in dribs and drabs
In Farewell, Friend: A Gentle Guide to Saying Goodbye to Your Dog share the most valuable, comforting advice I found when I was dealing with the loss of my own dog, Jazz.
Writing this ebook helped me find peace of mind because I explored a wide variety of different ways to grieve the loss of a beloved family dog. I interviewed veterinarians, grief counselors, and pet experts for the best ways to grieve a dog’s death. I also included stories from real pet owners who coped with guilt and grief in sometimes surprising ways.
You’ll find this ebook most helpful if you read it in “dribs and drabs.” Reading two or three stories and tips at a time will give you peace of mind through a slow, steady process of acceptance and self-forgiveness. You’ll learn that the pain of putting a dog to sleep does ease – especially if you try different suggestions for grieving and healing. If you give yourself time and space to actively grieve (as opposed to avoiding the pain of putting a dog to sleep), you may even find yourself wondering if you should open your heart to love another dog.
6. Bow your head and lift your heart
True peace of mind – even if you’re facing something as painful as putting your dog to sleep – can only come through God. We humans don’t have the power it takes to “will” peace of mind…we can only be filled by God’s peace. Resilience and healing only comes through a strong spiritual connection with something bigger and greater than ourselves. And that something is God, through the power of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ.
Your dog was a gift, a brief blessing, a glimpse of heaven on earth. May you hold on to the joy of knowing your dog, and surrender to the peace of mind only God can give you. May you be filled with faith, freedom, and love.
I pray for healing and peace that surpasses all understanding to come into your life. May your heart be comforted and your soul lifted as you bow your head to your Creator. He loves you. He wants you to have peace of mind. He created you, and He created your dog. God knows how close you and your dog were. Your dog’s soul is resting in His perfect place, and your dog’s spirit will never leave you.
I welcome your thoughts on grief, healing, and finding peace of mind after putting your dog to sleep. Writing about you, your dog and your story can help you process your thoughts and feelings. Read through the comments below; it’ll be sad, but you’ll see that you are not alone.
For more tips on how to find peace of mind after putting a dog to sleep, read Healing Your Heart After Losing Your Dog.
Take good care of yourself, for you are a child of God. And that means you’re worth taking good care of.
In peace and passion,