Books to help when a beloved pet dies
~Dedicated to Scout, Henley, Murphy, and Barley – forever loved, never forgotten~
One of my beloved dogs died this past Spring (2022) and I wanted to share one of the things that I do to help me deal with grief and loss. Often I turn to books for refuge, escape, to learn from others, and to find words to guide me when I need emotional support. One of the reasons I turn to books is because I often find that I am looking for “just the right words” to help me feel better and try to think more clearly when I am in mourning. Experiences like death and loss are so personal and complex and it is important to find support to help cope with our thoughts feelings so that we can begin to adjust to life after a loss.
Goodbye Friend was the first book about pet loss I ever read and I have kept it on my bookshelf for many years – since the death of my first dog in my mid-30’s (I have had a total of 5 dogs as an adult and several more in my childhood). I had gone to see a counselor a few months after he died because of the deep grief I was experiencing – he was a “best friend” dog and I was having trouble accepting his sudden, unexpected death and had no idea how to cope with my feelings. She recommended this book and it helped me a lot. Mainly because it was validating to know that others experienced enough grief after the death of a pet to warrant someone writing a book for us. It also gave me a reference point to begin talking about pet loss with my own clients in the upcoming years.
My most recent dog who died, was another “best-friend dog” (like my first dog). Again, like my first dog, his death was somewhat unexpected (which, for me, appears to be more challenging to adjust to). This little guy was a constant companion for almost 15 years and his death was a profound loss for me.
While it is hard to write about him even now, I want pet-people to know that when the time comes to say goodbye to your beloved animal family member, you have a kindred spirit here through this blog post. I have found some solace in these books that I am sharing here – I found other pet-loving souls in them. Grief and loss is a personal and lonely journey for lots of people. If you are one of them, you may want to get yourself one of these books and try some of the recommendations offered. For me, writing down my memories of him (and my other dogs) seems to have broken the spell of the deepest pain. I think I may have been worried that I would forget our special moments over time if I let go of the deep pain. Once I decided to memorialize him in a journal it seemed to have helped me realize that I cannot ever possibly forget him – especially now that I have this journal of memories to turn to whenever I need a reminder of one of the best parts of my life. The sadness remains — it still hurts knowing that time of my life is over, but I want to try to turn toward the love that I have for him/them, and my memories will help lead me there. It is going to take time, maybe longer than I want to admit, but I believe that the love will begin to outweigh the pain and sorrow one day.
I do not go into details about each of these books because I recognize that grief and loss is a personal journey – one where finding “just the right words” is different for everyone. I just offer these as a place to begin looking for those words of comfort for yourself. My choice of books here are my personal taste – and I honestly do not find every single chapter relevant to my loss – but I do find something helpful in each of these books to help when I am having a tough time.
Take good care of yourself ~Stacia
And I Love You Still – A Thoughtful Guide and Remembrance Journal for Healing the Loss of a Pet, by Julianne Corbin, PhD (Self-published, 2020; 233 pages; $18.95 Amazon).
The Pet Loss Companion, by Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio & Nancy Saxton-Lopez (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2013; 116 pages; $12.95 Bookshop.org).
You Can Heal Your Heart, by Louise Hay & David Kessler (Hay House, Inc.; 2014; 182 pages; $15.80 Bookshop.org).
Healing After Loss – Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief, by Martha Whitmore Hickman (Harper Collins; 2002; 365 pages; $15.80 Bookshop.org).
Goodbye, Friend – Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet, by Gary Kowalski (New World Library; 2012; 176 pages; $14.88 Bookshop.org).
Losing My Best Friend – Thoughtful Support for Those Affected by Dog Bereavement or Pet Loss, by Jeannie Wycherley (Bark at the Moon Books; 2018; $14.00 Bookshop.org).
What a lovely post, thank you for sharing it and I’m so sorry for the loss of your dog. I lost my “best cat of my life” back in September 2019 and we are still grieving for him, and have only really accepted the two cats we got (too soon!) after we lost him. I had to not think about him or look at pictures for ages but can do so now. We all grieve in different ways and I thank you for making that so clear.
Thank you Liz. It really is such a complex and personal experience for us pet lovers (I know…). Some days are better than others (especially early-on in the grieving process) for me. I am always trying to think of ways to keep their precious lives a part of my life as I go on without them. Pets are so special and while I am so grateful to have had them in my life, it is also bittersweet to have to say goodbye to them. From one pet-lover to another – may you find peace in your heart with your own loss of your cat.