Dec 022013

If you accidentally hurt your dog or cat – or you had to put your pet down – these ways to deal with guilt for causing your pet’s death will help you cope.

feel guilty caused pets death

When Your Pet Dies

When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing by Alan D. Wolfelt is a guide for pet owners who are struggling with grief when their pet dies. This book will help you understand why your feelings are so overwhelming, and help you cope with the guilt you feel about your pet’s death. The topics discussed include practical suggestions for grieving, ideas for remembering and memorializing one’s pet, understanding the many emotions experienced after the death of a pet, understanding why grief for pets is unique, pet funerals and burial or cremation, celebrating and remembering the life of one’s pet, coping with feelings about euthanasia (and guilt about putting an animal to sleep), helping children understand the death of their pet, and things to keep in mind before getting another pet.

These tips are inspired by a reader who shared his guilty feelings about putting his dog to sleep. Saying good-bye to your beloved dog or cat is heartbreaking – and it’s even worse if you feel guilty about your pet’s death. I hope these tips help. “If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there,” says Pam Brown. “Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them.”

4 Ways to Deal With the Guilt of a Pet’s Death

Some people accidentally cause their dog or cat’s death by accidentally leaving them in harm’s way. The most important thing to remember is that you did NOT purposely cause your pet’s death. Dealing with guilt may be a bit lighter if you know you would’ve acted differently if you had the chance. If your actions led to your pet’s death, you have to keep reminding yourself that you did not deliberately harm your dog or cat. It was an accident, and you would have done things differently if you had know what would happen.

Dealing With Guilt When You Caused Your Pet’s Death

If you’re struggling with grief and guilty feelings because of the circumstances surrounding your dog or cat’s death, read Letting Go of an Animal You Love: 75 Ways to Survive Pet Loss. I interviewed veterinarians, grief counselors, and pet experts for the best ways to survive the death of a beloved dog or cat, and I included stories from real pet owners who coped with guilt and grief in sometimes surprising ways.

Identify “imagined” guilt about the loss of your dog or cat. Not recognizing that your Yorkie, cockapoo, or Siamese cat was ill doesn’t mean that you weren’t paying attention or taking good care of him or her! This is imagined guilt. Animals can’t always communicate their physical health; pet owners can’t see inside their bodies and brains.

Another type of “imagined” guilt is if you’ve accidentally caused your pet’s death by letting him out, keeping him in, or losing track of his whereabouts. If you did not deliberately set out to harm your pet, then you have nothing to feel guilty about. I know this is easier said than done – and it takes effort to forgive yourself.

If you’re dealing with imagined guilt because of your pet’s death, remember that sometimes illness or disease overcomes our dogs, cats, and other beloved pets…and there’s nothing we can do. This loss of control is a very painful — but real — part of life.

I recently wrote How to Forgive Yourself for Not Protecting Your Dog, to help you deal with the guilt you feel. Please take a moment to read it — it’s the comments on this article that inspired me to write it.

Remember that it’s normal to feel guilty when your dog or cat dies. Whether your guilt is real or imagined, know that it is a normal grief reaction. Even the most “innocent” pet owners feel guilt over a pet’s death. For instance, I now cringe when I recall how angry I was at my beloved cat, Zoey, for scratching the basement door (I didn’t realize the door to her litter box was shut tight, and she couldn’t get in). That was over 12 years ago, and I still feel guilty! Healing after you had to put your pet down often requires forgiving yourself.

dealing with guilt pet deathGoodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet is the number one bestselling book on pet loss and grief on Amazon. I love the book because it offers both heartwarming stories and practical guidance on grieving the loss of a pet. It’ll help you deal with guilt when you caused your pet’s death.

Identify “real” guilt about your pet’s death. Real guilt may spring from your feelings that you neglected your dog or cat’s annual vaccinations, daily food intake, exercise habits, and “quality time” with you. If you’re struggling with real guilt, remember that you had reasons for doing what you did. The stress of money, work, kids, marriage, and daily life may have taken precedence over how you treated your pet. Maybe you didn’t make the best choices.

guilt over dog cat death

“Dealing With Guilt When You Caused Your Pet’s Death” image by Laurie

Healing after your pet’s death involves accepting that you wish you would’ve done things differently — and talking this through with your family, friends, or loved ones.

Remember what you did right — because you did a lot right. Your dog or cat loved you beyond all reason – so you must have done something right. How did you love and take care of your pet? Balance your real guilt with the real ways you loved your pet. You took good care of your dog or cat in many ways; don’t wave that away.

Dealing with guilt when you caused your pet’s death isn’t just about grieving; it’s about cherishing the best parts of your life with your dog or cat.

Do you feel like you caused your dog or cat’s death? I encourage you to share your experience below. Talking and writing about it is healthier than ignoring it, and can help you process your grief.

Article Name
Dealing With Guilt When You Caused Your Pet's Death
If you accidentally hurt your dog or cat - or you had to put your pet down - these ways to deal with guilt for causing your pet's death will help you cope.
laurie pawlik kienlenI'm Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen (but I wish my name was Rosie Frost!). I'm a bookworm, travel bug, flute player, writer. My husband and I live in Vancouver, Canada with our cat and dogs.

Are you happy? My Grade 10 Social Studies teacher, Mr Merritt, always used to ask me that. And I am happy - despite a difficult childhood (schizophrenic mother, no father, foster homes), infertility, an eating disorder, and a chronic illness. The source of my peace and joy is God; I'm a Christian.

How is your life unfolding - what do you need? I welcome your big and little comments below, about big or little things. I can't give you advice, but writing can give you clarity and insight.

In peace and passion.... Laurie

  165 Responses to “Dealing With Guilt When You Caused Your Pet’s Death”

  1. I lost my beautiful little springer yesterday I noticed weeks ago that she was less tolerant of exercise but didn’t do what I knew I should ie get her to the vet for blood tests then she became critically ill with autoimmune haemolytic anaemia and couldn’t be saved. She would have had a good chance of survival if I had done something sooner. I feel so angry with myself I loved Aimee so much and I let her down so badly

  2. Dear Sally,

    Thank you for being here – I’m so sorry you lost Milly at such a young age. What a terrible experience, and such a huge loss.

    May you find healthy ways to deal with the guilt you feel about your dog’s death. I hope you can see it wasn’t your fault, it was a horrible accident that took her life. May you find peace and acceptance, and come to remember Milly with love and even joy. She is resting in peace, and watching you with all the devotion she had for you when she was alive. She wants you to remember her without pain or sadness.

    In sympathy,

  3. Thank you for writing about how to deal with guilt after your pet dies. I feel like I caused my dog’s death by not feeding him healthier food. He was overweight most of his life and I didn’t give him healthy treats. He ate table scraps most of the time. He died at 11 years old but I think he would’ve lived longer if I had fed him good dog food.

  4. We had to have our beautiful 5 year old dog put to sleep on Sunday, up until 9 pm on Saturday evening she had been a perfectly healthy happy dog she had been out for 3 walks on Saturday the last one being at 7 pm. Unfortunately I had been in and out all day but the kids had been around and they had walked her and they say nothing was different. I got back at around 9pm and took her and the other dog in the car to drop some things off at my ex partners they both went in his house Milly had jumped in the car fine and got out and ran in to his fine she then was sick all over we thought it was our daughter screaming and being really giddy that had upset her but after I returned home she was sick again. I got her to the vets not long after and they said her temp, heart rate, breathing and tummy were all fine so she probably had gastritis from something shed eaten which she shouldnt have which would be quite normal for her she was a bit of a monkey like that. Anyway I was sent home with her after she had anti sickness jab and I had to give her doggie diorylite every hour which I did, she continued to be sick then wanted to go in the garden I went with her to see f she had been sick but she was trying to bury herself in a corner, I immediately picked her up and took her back to the vets and had to leave her there although even at this point they said apart from dehydration she seemed ok. About an hour later I received the worst call ever that with or without treatment she had less than 2% chance of survival. We had to have her put to sleep at the vets as she was too ill to come home to rest we sat with her for over an hour before and after. I really cant getr out of my head that I may have missed something earlier that could have saved her. I feel sick cant eat sleep feel like I cant breathe and we hav the other dog who is missing her soo much she was a year older than him. I really cant cope with anything at the momnent not being around people or anything I feel so bad that it must have been my fault somehow.

  5. It’s that quiet time of mid-night, with tears streaming down my face, as I try to process the tragic loss my daughter is facing right now. She called me earlier this evening and through her gut-wrenching cries, I was able to piece together what happened to her newly beloved cat, Elsa.
    You see, my oldest daughter and her long-time partner had just returned home to their apartment after joining us on vacation. She was busily trying to step back into the realm of everyday life life, along with the addition of caring for our home & pets. As well, they were cleaning up to tackle the last phase of eliminating a flea infestation brought on by the most unfortunate pet-care habits of their neighbors. She got ready and left for work. She told him to do the laundry. Somehow, someway, Elsa made her way into the dryer with the laundry…. despite every attempt possible, she didn’t survive.
    My daughter got the call while she was at work. I stayed with her on speaker phone, just talking her through her drive to the emergency vet clinic, telling her much the same things I’ve just lovingly read here. It was just heart-breaking. And even I went through moments where I questioned why/how and was angry. Even though truly, It was just a reaction to the utter shock & despair at such a horrific accident.
    But now alone with my thoughts, I’m absolutely beside myself with Grief for them :( I can’t imagine the enormity of guilt of guilt they are enduring as I think about what happened and listen to her try to articulate it all. I’m so incredibly sad that they have to find a way to live with this for all-time. That they will find pain in comforting each other rather than the safety and trust they’re used to. I pray that she can forgive. I pray that neither becomes suicidal with the overwhelming pain. I pray that love will be enough. And, I pray with my total being, that Elsa didn’t suffer. All this is made so much worse with guilt. My daughter feels guilt for asking him to do laundry and being gone, he feels guilt for not preventing it and protecting Elsa in her absence, even I feel guilt! Months ago I warned them about cats jumping into warm dryers. I had a collegue that this happened to years ago and since their washer and dryer is easily accessible in their hallway, I morbidly mentioned it. A dreaded “I told you so”… Elsa was a very fast, very curious and very confident “tween-ager” and I was being “mom”. And, the fore-warning didn’t work.
    I wish so badly I could turn back the hands of time or protect them from this tragedy. It’s just so awful, the events and conversations just seem to play over and over in my head like a movie even though I was, and am still, so far away. It’s all so heart-breaking. I can’t sleep through all the worry. My heart and prayers go out to each and every one of you. To know that we aren’t alone and be able to write honestly about it is at least a token of comfort, for which I’m eternally grateful <3
    Thank you

  6. Thank-you for the kind article.

    I also feel so incredibly guilty about my cats death. I can barely make it through the day without breaking down in tears. I can’t stop crying as I write this :(

    I had a beautiful Siamese cat named Hollybell that died last Tuesday. She was 21 which is a very advanced age for a cat and I’m lucky to have had her for so long. I live with my parents, and although they loved her as well, she was without question my cat. Completely devoted to me. She slept on my bed or on a heating pad that I set up on my chair.

    Well 3 weeks ago, my brother asked me to apartment sit in order to look after his 2 young cats while he was away and while I was over at my brother’s apartment, my beautiful Hollybell died.

    I just feel so sick. My brother lives like 10 minutes away from my home and I easily could have come home to stay with Holly at night. In fact that was my initial plan, but I was having such a good time at my brother’s apartment, that I took for granted how sick she was. I kept reassuring myself that I would be home in a few days and then she’d have me all to herself again.

    Then last Monday and Tuesday, my parents kept calling me – but I ignored them because usually they call to nag. (I love them dearly but they nag a lot) And I was just having too much fun to be bothered.

    I genuinely don’t know how to move past this. Everything I see in my room reminds me of Holly and I feel like I can’t breathe.

    I just feel sick that I wasn’t there for her when she needed me the most. My parents were there and they’re kind people but they didn’t pet her often or care for her like I did. Holly spent most of her time on my bed in my room. I genuinely don’t think I deserve to be forgiven. I feel like because animals are so pure of heart, they’re a lot like very young children and it was my responsibility to keep Holly safe and loved and when she needed me the most I was off having a good time somewhere else.

  7. Dear Vanessa,

    What a very tragic ordeal you’ve experienced with your cat. It is awful and heartbreaking that he is gone, and that you never got a chance to say good-bye.

    One thing it’s important to remember is that it’s possible that his condition was too far gone to be treated. It could’ve been cancer or a serious bladder disease, and treating illnesses like that put way more stress on a poor animal than letting him go. Resting in peace is sometimes the most loving thing we can do for our pets.

    I think the hard thing is that you never got to say good-bye. You didn’t make the decision to let him go, and you were shocked that he’s not here anymore. The disbelief and grief is overwhelming, and you never had a chance to prepare yourself for this.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. I pray you’re able to forgive yourself and deal with whatever guilt you feel about your cat’s death. I hope you can see that he may have been in pain, and that perhaps the shelter’s decision to let him rest in peace may have been the best option. There may have been no better alternative, without causing him further pain and suffering.

    Your cat loved you very much, and he is still in your heart and soul. He doesn’t want you to suffer when you think about him! He is not in any pain, and he is resting in the peace and joy that only God can bring. He wants you to remember him with love and serenity, not peace, angst, or guilt. May your mind, heart, and soul be filled with acceptance and peace, and may you grieve your loss without feeling like you did him wrong. You didn’t do wrong.

    In sympathy,

  8. I feel responsible for my cats death. He was only two years old we got him and his sister at the same time. Anyway for the past two months he started urinating outside the litter box on the bathroom floor. Then we started noticing blood in it, I couldn’t afford to take him to the vet at this time so I called everywhere possible for help with him. No one was wanting to help me. I did some research and tried giving him natural medicine, for a while it was seeming to help he wasn’t hiding as much and was eating better and there was no blood. Saturday I woke up to blood all over the bathroom I panicked and called the animal rescue league. I figured he would be better off if I surrendered him and they would give him the help he needed. I dropped him off and they brought him out back. The next day we called to check on him and we’re trying to figure a way to adopt him back. We were then notified right after he was dropped off they euthanized him. I never got to say goodbye, I feel like they should have treated him and adopted him out. If would have known they were gonna kill him right away without trying to treat him first o would have figured something else out and not have surrendered him. O still can’t believe he’s gone and am in denial. I loved him so much. I was just trying to get him medical treatment an antibiotic no one would help him with that but they would help kill him? It’s all my fault I’ll never get over it.

    • I am so sorry for your loss and pain. You did the best you could for him and there is no way you could of known they would put him down when you tried to get help. They should of let you know the process. Usually they wait for a period of time and then proceed if nobody adopts it. The cat must of been sick enough for them to think that was the best thing to do. Try and remember all the good times you had. Our dog was hit and killed by a car last weekend and I feel exactly like you. She was always running accross the road to chase squirrels, chipmunks, you name it. We told her over and over again to stay in the yard even though we live on a not very busy street where people are usually careful. She crossed the road just as some guy going way to fast came barreling down the road and hit her while I was outside with her. I felt compelled to write to you to let you know you are not alone in the guilt and pain. It was my fault as I knew I needed to get her in the house and I was distracted by a phone call. I loved her so very much and feel extra bad because she was my 17 year old daughter’s dog. My daughter has sufferred from depression and the dog helped her through some tough times. I started writing all the wonderful things she did a long with some of the naughty ones and it helps me remember her when she was with us and happy. Know there are others that feel like you and try not to blame yourself. You did everything you could for him and loved him a lot or you wouldn’t care this much.

  9. Dear Jay,

    I’m sorry you lost your cat in such a sad way, and that you’re still struggling with the guilt and grief. It’s been almost two years, and it sounds like it’s still quite painful for you. I don’t know what happened to your relationship – were you able to forgive her? Whether or not you stayed together and got married, forgiveness is a crucial aspect to moving on. Have you forgiven yourself?

    My thought is that it might be wise for you to talk to a counselor about your feelings. You need to process the pain and guilt, and it isn’t happening on your own. You need to find a way to lift the burden of the terrible guilt you feel, and accept that your boy died the way he did. It wasn’t anybody’s fault…it was a tragic accident. It’s so sad and almost unbearable, but you need to find a way to heal. You can’t keep living like this, with the burden of pain, grief, and guilt.

    My prayer for you is that you find freedom and forgiveness. May you accept your boy’s death as a sad accident, and may your heart and soul heal from the devastating grief and guilt. May you come to terms with how he died, and with your feelings of failure for not being there to protect your cat. I pray that you feel a spiritual release — maybe even that your boy’s spirit rests on you and tells you that he is happier now, more peaceful now, and watching you with love. May you feel your cat’s sadness that you can’t move on…and may you find strength and courage to forgive yourself, even if just to release your cat from the pain of watching you in so much pain. I pray you connect with God, and become whole, healthy, and happy again. Amen.

    Blessings and sympathy,

  10. So, my issue occurred almost two years ago. My fiancé at the time neglected to check details and killed my beloved little boy cat in the washing machine. Just losing him after 12 years was so hard, but the way happened was even worse. Knowing how loving he always was and how was like my little shadow. Months after that my fiancé left me. I learned to forgive her for the mistake, but I feel terrible guilt myself to this day. It was the one time I didn’t do our laundry. I feel like I failed at protecting him. That if I would have done simple things differently he’d still be here. It still hurts me to my core. Anyone have advice or a way to deal with that feeling in a constructive way?

    Thank you

    • Hi Jay,
      I can identify with what you say so much, and also with the fact that it still haunts you after all this time.
      I experienced something slightly different with my cat (years ago), but can’t shake the guilt either.
      I just hope we can adjust (for the lack of a better word) better to our respective situations than we did up till now. In sympathy,

  11. Dear Trixie,

    I am so sorry you lost your dog. I let mine off leash all the time, and I always say a prayer for safety! It’s always a risk — but for me, the risk is worth it. The joy and happiness our dogs feel when they run off leash is amazing, so I always let them go….and I always hope they come back safe. We have owls in our forest, and that’s one of my main worries for my little dog, Tiffy.

    An accidental death is so difficult, so shocking. It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? One minute your dog is there, the next…she’s gone. My prayer for you as you go through the grief process is that you find peace. May you deal with whatever guilty feelings you have about your dog’s death, and may you forgive yourself. May you know deep in your heart and soul that this was an accident, that you would have done anything to protect your dog from dying. May you find forgiveness and peace as you heal from the pain of this loss. And, may you know that your dog forgives you, loves you with all her heart, and wants you to live in freedom. She doesn’t want you to be burdened with guilt. She is frolicking in Heaven, and she is safe! She doesn’t want you to be in pain. May you find your way to the freedom of forgiveness and peace, my friend. Amen.

    In sympathy,

  12. Today I took my dog for a run on this lovely wooded path by my cottage. I have been letting her run off leash because she had a remarkable amount of energy and loved to frolic. Trixie has been responding well when I tell her to stop or sit. She was also very attached to me so would never stray that far. I decided to do two loops of the trail but unexpectedly trixie bolted across the highway at the point we usually cross at the return home. But level of guilt is beyond words. If only I put the leash on her to walk the part of the path along where you can access the highway. It hurts so much because she is gone and there is nothing to do to bring her back. I drove to the vet just in case by some miracle she could be saved but it was no use. She was gone by the time we got there. I just hope the last words she heard was that I loved her more than I have ever loved anything. We were kindered spirits.

    • Trixie, I am so sorry for you terrible loss. It’s been a week since my Zephyr died and the pain is still as wide and deep as an ocean. Dealing with the guilt is no small task. I’ve tried to see the whole thing from a place of innocence. You innocently let your girl run off leash because you knew how much joy it gave her. That’s love. Your joy and her joy were bound together. The unexpected twist of fate seems so utterly cruel. How can we lose that being that we loved more than anything in a blink of an eye. It hurts. I sympathize with you as you enter this journey. The hardest one I’ve ever been on. But, people keep telling me that Zephyr or Trixie is as close as your own heart. Always. I try to believe it. I hope you can too.

  13. Dear Zephyr’s mom,

    Thank you for being here, and for sharing your tragic story with us. You loved him so much, and you accidentally caused his death. It’s such a difficult thing to reconcile, and make peace with.

    My prayer for you is that you are able to forgive yourself, and that you feel the peace of Zephyr’s forgiveness deep in your soul. May you be confident that not only does Zephyr forgive you, but he wants you to remember him with love, joy, and serenity. I also pray you find the right people and books to help you deal with the guilt you feel about causing your dog’s death.

    Thoughts of suicide are very serious, and I encourage you to talk to a counselor or call a suicide help line. You wouldn’t be helping your dog if you killed yourself. Instead, I pray you are able to take your pain and grief, and somehow use it to inspire or heal other people. Don’t let this tragic accident consume you, or define you.

    I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    Sincerely, in sympathy,

    • Dear Laurie,
      Thank you for this beautiful space in which those who are overcome by guilt can reach out. You must be a very good person, a dog-like person (which is the best kind). I will try to take to heart your advice to turn the pain and grief toward something good. I am still hurting but not as hysterical as when I first wrote on your blog. I still stagger under the guilt and replay the fateful event in my mind over and over. Thank you again for taking the time to reply. May you be well and happy.

  14. Dear all,
    This afternoon I decided to let the dogs out of the car to run alongside. We do that occasionally because they love it so much. And, it is so fun to see them so happy. In an instant, I thought I hit a rock, but it was my little beloved dog Zephyr. He died instantly. He was the light of my life. He was always at my feet while I read or worked. He traveled the world with me. Kept me sane during hard years doing fieldwork in Africa. He knew if I was sad and would cuddle up with me. A truly great soul. Sometimes, my love was so strong that I felt like he was an extension of myself, my soul dog. And, I killed him! I feel like killing myself. I can’t see straight. My world feels as if its crumbled. I don’t know how anyone lives through such pain. But, it seems some of you have done it or are doing it. I wish you strength and peace. Thank you for sharing your stories so that others don’t feel so alone.

  15. Dear HeartBrokenMom,

    Thank you for sharing your experience here…I am so sad for you and your dogs. I can only imagine how devastated you are. I have two dogs, and they are the center of my life. But even so, I can see how it can happen, to be caught up in the rush of the day and forget that they aren’t right by my side. I understand how it can happen, and I don’t blame you in the least. My heart breaks for you, though, because it is such a difficult thing to forgive yourself for.

    I encourage you to talk to a grief counselor. I think that this is such a traumatizing thing, that the guilt of leaving your dogs in the truck is so devastating that you might need help processing your pain. I encourage you to talk to a counselor about the experience, and ask for help finding ways to forgive yourself. You need to work through this with someone who can help you deal with your feelings of self-recrimination and pain, who can help you find your way to forgiving yourself.

    Will you call a grief counselor, and take time to work through your guilt with her? For your own sake, for your healing?

    My prayer for you is that you find the right counselor to talk to, and that you see yourself with God’s love, compassion, and forgiveness. May you grieve the death of your beloved dogs, and may you see your way clear to releasing yourself from the burden of the black heaviness of guilt. May you find peace, compassion, and faith – and may you get emotionally and spiritually centered so you get past this horrible time. Amen.

    Blessings – please do come back and let me know how you are.


    • Hi Laurie

      Im sorry I didn’t realize anyone had written me…Thank you for your reply and kind words and advice.
      I have come back to this site on my husbands suggestion, to read etc as I havent been doing well at all. I thought I was, but now I’ve been having anxiety attacks when I think of them…I havent been able to come to terms with what I did. I have thought about seeking counseling, but I just don’t know if I could.
      My family tells me to forgive myself, but I can’t seem to :(
      The guilt is just so heavy.

  16. I’m struggling so badly with the recent death of my dogs. I don’t even know if I’m writing this in the right space…my head is a mess.
    I caused my dog’s death. I can’t get over it. I’m trying hard, but the guilt is so overwhelming I can’t breathe. I feel like my husband and son are getting fed up with me, because I just break down.
    I love my dogs so much. I don’t even understand how it could have happened.
    I took them out for their daily run, and when we returned, they were in the back of my truck. I had groceries in the front. I backed into my driveway, grabbed my groceries, brought my groceries in….and that was it. I spoke to my son for a minute who was just leaving, and then I started returning phone calls, emails, went on with my day.
    I just left them. I completely forgot my dogs were in the truck. I don’t understand how I could do something so heartless. I loved them more than anything. They were my whole world. I had this same routine for 6 years. Every day. How could I just forget my babies? How could I be so cruel and cause them so much pain?
    I didn’t even realize until a couple hours later. I was devastated. I found them, I screamed and screamed, I shook them, I begged them to wake up. It was a horrifying nightmare and I just cant get passed it. How could I give them such a good life, everything they needed and beyond, and just forget my babies?
    I can’t stop picturing them in there, the pain and confusion, I feel like I broke their hearts. I feel guilty, I feel lost, and heartbroken. I feel like the moment I catch myself not thinking about them, that I’m awful for it, or if I catch myself laughing at something my husband or son said, I feel like I’m awful for trying to pretend it didn’t happen.
    I honestly don’t know what to do at this point. I’m so sad without them with me. I just don’t understand.
    We had been preparing for one death, because one of our dogs was sick with cancer, but to all of a sudden lose both, and in such a horrible way….I just can’t deal with it and I don’t know what to do:(

    • Dear Heartbroken Mom,
      I am so very sorry for your loss. I also lost my dog almost 3 weeks ago, and every day I miss her terribly. I posted here a few weeks ago, because I couldn’t stop going over and over the illness with which she was struggling, trying to figure out what I could’ve done differently. I have never posted in a forum like this, but I am glad that I did.

      There isn’t anything that anyone can say, really, that makes the pain of the loss go away. When it comes down to it, what is REAL in the situation is the sadness of your loss and the emptiness in your heart. Guilt is one of those really challenging emotions that rears its ugly head anytime something tragic happens — even if feelings of guilt are completely unwarranted in the situation.

      One of my good friends reminded me that we are never really “cured’ of our heartache. Instead, we start to heal. Healing is almost impossible when guilt is overwhelming. It is so clear that you would do anything — ANYTHING — you could to change the events of that afternoon. As impossible as it may seem to you, you need to forgive yourself and realize that what happened was completely an accident. We all make mistakes. Sometimes, they don’t matter and sometimes they do. Either way, though, you have to come to realize that INTENT does matter and the love you had and gave to your dogs is NOT lessened by the fact that a terrible accident occurred.

      Like you, I have children and each time I started to feel happy about anything in the last few weeks (whether it be because they said something funny or were happy about something), I felt like I was betraying my dog by finding joy. But then I thought about her, and the love and joy she found in everything….and what I realized is that the best thing I could do to remember her, and to make her “spirit” live on, is to try to live my life like she lived hers. She was full of life and joy and love – – and rather than rip myself apart with guilt — I decided to be thankful that I had the opportunity to love and know her.

      My 5-year old son has been a great teacher throughout this. He cried and cried about her death. Yet, he finds ways to remember her and when he does — he does not cry. Instead, he smiles. For example, he said the clouds reminded him of her (she was a white standard poodle, so that makes sense). Then he said that a shadow that came through the car window looked like she did when she “smiled” while going with us in the car to just about anywhere. Today, he asked a clown to make him a balloon of a poodle….which he brought to me and said, “Here. Mom, this will remind you of Tilly — doesn’t that make you feel better?”

      So, when I think of her now, I try not to fixate on how or why she died, but instead I think about how she lived. With your dogs, it is clear that you loved them very much and I am sure that you and the two of them had many beautiful, fun times together. You need to start thinking more about those — even if it makes you cry a little harder at the start. You won’t ever erase the trauma of the accident from your mind, but you can try to fill your heart with memories of the many, many good times that they had WITH YOU.

      Laurie, the moderator of this site, recommended that I read a book called “Stitches” by Anne Lamott and I’ve found it to be very comforting. I’ve also spent some time reading “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron and, even though I’ve read it before, it has really helped me embrace both suffering and compassion as being a part of loving and living.

      Peace to you.

      • I didn’t realize anyone had replied to me. Thank you for that. I actually came back to this site, as my husband suggest to, to read more stories etc as I am still struggling so much. I thought I was doing better, but lately, in the last week or so, I’ve been visualizing when I found them…I try not to, but can’t seem to help it and it’s triggered some anxiety attacks. I’m not sure how else to handle it so I thought Id take his advice to come seek other stories, mutual dog owners etc

        Thank you for the kind words, it helps to think there are actually people that wouldn’t critizie or judge me. I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, but it’s nice to hear someone say kind words that are not cruel or judgmental.

        I’m sorry for your loss of Tilly…I wish I knew the words to say, but struggling so bad with my loss, I just dont think there are words:(

  17. Dear SadMom,

    Thank you for being here, and sharing how Tilly’s life with us. She will be remembered, and her spirit is moving through the internet! She was an awesome dog, and you’ll probably miss her for the rest of your days. Dogs are like that – they get into our very souls, and we’re never the same without them.

    I’m reading Anne Lamott’s book called Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair. If you haven’t read Lamott’s nonfiction books, I encourage you to! Her latest one – Stitches – is about living through tragedy and pain, and trying to move forward through loss. One thing she says, which I really believe, is that we never fully recover from loss. We will always be broken and sad, and that’s normal because we lost something we loved so much!

    Maybe the pain we feel – the guilt we’re experiencing at the loss of our pets – will never fully go away. We learn to live with it, but our sadness is part of who we are. We can’t expect to love so deeply, and recover fully when our beloved is taken away from us.

    I encourage you to read Anne Lamott’s book, and I pray it’ll be the light you need to get you through the worst of the grief.


    • Laurie,
      Thanks for your note. You captured how I feel perfectly. I want to transform the pain of her loss into the love that is at the root of the loss. I don’t want to “learn to live with” the pain or the loss, but — on the other hand, like you said, I don’t want to have my heart mend completely, because I still want a piece of it to be with her. I guess being human requires us to feel both.

      I love Anne Lamott (I read some of her earlier stuff in college and grad school), but not this one. In fact, I didn’t know about it. Even the name sounds like what I want to do re:the loss of Tilly — find meaning, and rediscover hope. I just miss her so much and want to figure out how to make something beautiful from and of that. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the recommendation. Also, thanks for your words. They gave me comfort. It makes me sad to think that others who post on this blog are feeling the same emptiness, but I’m also comforted that so many of you and us had dogs to love.

      They really are the best, aren’t they?

      Thanks and peace,
      Tilly’s mom

      • Laurie,
        It’s been a few weeks since your replied to my posting about my dog, Tilly. I did take your advice and am reading “Stitches.” I actually started with the Anne Lamott book it followed, “Help. Thanks. Wow” and have taken away a lot from both.

        Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my girl with all my heart. But, as I wrote to another one of the people who posted in your forum, my 5-year old son has reminded me that thinking often of her is the best way I can appreciate just what a huge joy she was in our lives. I’m trying to live like she did — with joy and love in every moment. Doing that has allowed my heart to ache and swell with love at the same time. Maybe that sounds corny, but it is really how I feel. I so wish she could be here with us right now and the sadness isn’t getting any better. But, gratitude, appreciation, compassion and love are keeping that sadness company and that’s ok by me.

        Thanks again for your help. I think you do a wonderful job helping all of us who have gone through the heartbreak of losing our dogs.

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