Comfort at Christmas: Coping with the Loss of a Pet

We miss our loved ones who have gone ahead to heaven before us, especially at holiday time. For many, that includes our precious pets, who have been like family members to us. Their unconditional love and devotion, along with their joy at the sight of us, make them intricate and important parts of our lives. We are the center of their world and we adore them for that. The sights, sounds and smells of Christmas trigger those sweet memories that we miss so desperately.

My cat Miu loved to gaze at the Christmas tree for all of her 18 Christmases with me. I feel blessed that she had such a long, good life, but I miss that sweet cat everyday.

Not everybody understands that. There are those who casually think, “Just get another cat…or dog”. We must forgive them for that lack of compassion and probably feel sad for them that they have not known the extraordinary relationship with a loving animal. As I often say, “our pets seem to have the qualities that God had hoped for us”.

For those of you who do “get it” and have felt the same depth of grief that I have over the loss of your pet, I wanted to send a message of comfort this time of year. I, and many others, understand your sense of loss. Animals have a divinity and majesty that cannot be explained. I can tell you that I have experienced moments that assure me that my beloved pets are indeed in heaven and will greet me there. I am betting that some of you have, too. I will share those stories here from time to time.

Meanwhile, here are a few things that help me cope with the loss of a pet:

  • Luke 12:6

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.

This verse directly speaks to God’s love for His creation, even the small and inexpensive birds sold for pennies in the ancient markets. God cares about the suffering and life of every animal in his creation, and loves also the pet’s owner. God remembers each moment of a pet’s life, and delights in the beauty of each part of his created world, no matter how small. This is one of the most comforting Bible verses when a pet dies.

  • Know that you are not alone. Don’t hesitate to let those around you know that you are grieving and will need some recovery time.
  • Don’t expect everyone to understand. Seek help from those you know DO understand the magnitude of your loss.
  • It is NOT disloyal to your departed pet to rescue another. No other will take their place, but our need to love an animal does not disappear and it’s good to share that love. When the time is right allow another animal to capture your heart.

My good friend Jennifer Greene lost her beloved 15 year old Boomer (pictured above) who was the joy of her life, but she now has two other amazing dogs to share her life. No other will take the place of Boomer, but two other dogs now have happy homes and make her smile everyday.

  • Create a legacy to celebrate the life of your pet. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has a beautiful service annually to honor pets. You can learn more at their website: bestfriends.org
  • Know that time makes the loss more tolerable.

Kit Ward, a dear, close friend of mine sent this poem to me that brought me such comfort. May it do the same for you.

Poem: Memorial — Cat and God dialogue

And God asked the feline spirit

Are you ready to come home?

Oh, yes, quite so, replied the precious soul

And, as a cat, you know I am most able

To decide anything for myself.

 

Are you coming then? asked God.

Soon, replied the whiskered angel

But I must come slowly

For my human friends are troubled

For you see, they need me, quite certainly.

 

But don’t they understand? asked God

That you’ll never leave them?

That your souls are intertwined. For all eternity?

That nothing is created or destroyed?

It just is….forever and ever and ever.

 

Eventually they will understand,

Replied the glorious cat

For I will whisper into their hearts

That I am always with them

I just am….forever and ever and ever.

 

Author Unknown

Tell Me: What has helped you cope with the loss of a furry friend?

11 Comments
  1. Years ago and several pets earlier we lost the dog who had found us when my son was in high school. This was the “best dog” as I called him. We were all devastated when he died suddenly. Some time weeks later I had a dream about the dog and saw him on our property surrounded by his favorite things; but the dream was like a large picture with many parts. As an amateur painter I knew I HAD to paint that vision of my dream. I did paint that dream vision on a large canvas that turned out to look like Folk Art. When I finished the painting I felt happy and relieved and knew that the dog was ok somewhere in Heaven romping doing what he loved and understood what an impact he had had on our family. Each time I see my painting it makes me smile as I remember the love he shared with us for a time…and that he will never be forgotten.

    1. Thank you, Libby, for this wonderful message that left me smiling and thankful that I have another friend who “gets it”. I love your way of finding such comfort and peace. I look forward to sharing this with others who are hurting. Thank you for taking the time to share something so beautiful. Merry Christmas!

    1. Thank YOU, Gail, for letting me you appreciated this. That means so much to me and I love that my forever friend also loves her animals. You are so good to take the time to tell me. Merry Christmas!

  2. I read many years ago a letter written to Ann Landers. It was written in response to a another letter Ann had received from a lady struggling over the loss of a dearly, beloved dog. A friend had encouraged her to find another dog and she felt guilty in doing so. The second letter written in to this ladies’ struggle suggested that there was no better tribute to her late pet than seeking another dog to love. The “family member” that she lost had left her with such an empty place in her heart that she needed to fill that hole with more love.

    Each person who loses a pet has to go through their own period of grief. Whether it is a month, months, or a year, You need to open your heart to more love. Today with so mant pets needing to be saved from shelters and poor living situations, at least look. That opening to your heart may come sooner than you may expect.

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