10 Things to Do When A Beloved Family Pet Dies

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It’s been just over a week since we lost Charly and while we’re still hurting, and there are still several moments every day where her death hits me like a tidal wave, there are good times, too. Times where we can remember her happily, instead of through sobbing tears. Through this difficult time of losing our beloved dog, there have been so many people that reached out with kind words or deeds that we appreciated so much.

I wanted to compile a few here for those that might not know what to do for someone that has lost a pet, or if you are the one that has suffered through a loss–there are some ideas of things we did ourselves to keep the memory of Charly alive in our home.

1. Validate it as a great loss. Charly was my first dog, and I admit, I didn’t realize how badly it was going to hurt to lose her. I was inconsolable. I cried myself to sleep for many nights. Losing her was the greatest loss I ever experienced and one thing that helped was when others acknowledged that. I think this is truly the most important thing anyone (and everyone) can do. Some people that don’t have pets may not realize the loss, but the most comforting conversations, comments, messages and texts were the validating ones, “This must be devastating for you.” “I’m so sorry for your loss.” “She was such a big, cherished part of your family, I’m crying with you.” are just a few of the simple examples of condolences that really helped.

2. Take family photos. Because we knew the date we were going to have to put Charly down, we were able to have one last family photo session–pictures we’ll cherish forever! My friend, Whitney, who is a great photographer volunteered to come over and take them in our home and I’m so grateful. If you can operate a camera, offering to take photos of a family with their pet is something they’ll always remember.

3. Send flowers/something edible. If you feel the desire to send something, we received beautiful flowers, chocolates, cookies and even meals that put a smile on our face and helped us know someone was thinking of us and Charly.

4. Engrave a Necklace. My friend gifted me a beautiful vertical bar necklace with Charly’s name engraved on it from this etsy shop. It’s delicate and simple and a way I can have her with me all the time. It definitely made me cry.

5. Get a copy of Dog Heaven. A friend brought this book over for our family the day before Charly died and it not only helped our daughters, but also me and Chris. It’s a comforting, tear-inducing book about where dogs go and what it’s like after they die. (There’s also a Cat Heaven book.)

6. Have a Professional Portrait taken.
 We took Charly into a local photo studio, Josh Peterson Photography, to have her portrait taken. This was something I wish we would have done long ago, but I’m so grateful we did it before she passed.

7. Get A Stuffy.  A friend bought each of our girls (even Polly!) a stuffed animal that looks just like Charly shortly before she died so they’d never have to be without a Charly. They sleep with them. They brought them to school for Show and Tell. Greta has definitely had a difficult time since Charly passed and when she misses real Charly, she hugs her stuffy and it helps.

8. Memorialize with Art. We received two beautiful paintings after Charly’s passing that now grace the walls of our home and help us always remember our Charly girl.

First was a very realistic watercolor pet portrait from Jamie Clark Art. (Her pet portraits start at just $68)

And second was a beautiful abstract watercolor from my sister, Victoria (artbyvbm on Etsy), who captured us perfectly in just a few color-blocked strokes.

9. Make an ornament. Taking off Charly’s collar was a very emotional moment. We strung a ribbon through her dog tag, a pink bone that reads “Charly” to make an ornament. Last year, we also made a clay imprint of her paw, using this kit, to hang on our tree and I’m so happy we did!

10. Let Yourself Grieve. When all is said and done and gifted and memorialized, your heart is still going to hurt. You’re still going to cry. You’re still going to miss that furry member of your family. And all you can do is learn to let yourself grieve. It’s a painful, but necessary thing we’re going through right now. We thought, maybe getting another dog right away would help, and I think it will when we’re ready, but right now our hearts are still healing. We’re enjoying remembering her through telling stories and looking at photos and keeping her memory alive within our home.

I know we’re not alone in this, because so many of you reached out with similar experience–thank you. Was there something that helped you during your pet’s passing that I missed?

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