You may feel regret, depression, and even anxiety after you put a dog to sleep. These suggestions for coping with anxious feelings and regret after saying good-bye to your dog are inspired by a Zen parable about two monks.
It’s important to memorialize your dog, perhaps with something like a “Best Dog Ever” Box Picture Frame. Take time to say good-bye as you choose the right photo of your dog, and find a special place in your home. A ritual like this can help you cope with anxiety. After putting a dog to sleep, it’s important to realize how important he was in your life…and how much he will be missed.
If you caused your pet’s death, you may find Dealing With Guilt When You Caused Your Pet’s Death helpful. I encourage you to read through the comments – you’ll see you’re not alone. You’ll also see that you’re not a bad person just because you made a mistake, and this may help you learn how to cope with anxiety after putting a dog to sleep or accidentally causing your pet’s death.
The Parable of the Two Monks
There is a Zen story about two monks walking down a street after a heavy rain. Arriving at a corner, they came upon a beautiful girl in fine clothing unable to cross the muddy street without getting filthy.
“Here, I’ll help you,” said the older monk. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her to the other side. She thanked him and went on her way.
The two monks walked in silence for a long time, the older one in perfect equanimity and enjoying the beautiful countryside, while the younger one grew more and more brooding and distracted, so much so that he could keep his silence no longer and suddenly burst out,
“Brother, we are taught to avoid contact with women, and there you were, not just touching a woman, but carrying her on your shoulders!” the second monk said to the first. “Why did you do that?”
The older monk looked at the younger with a loving smile and said, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river; you are still carrying her.”
How to Cope With Anxiety After Putting a Dog to Sleep
These suggestions on how to cope with anxiety after putting a dog to sleep will help you forgive yourself for not protecting your dog. I was inspired to share these tips after reading this parable of the two monks in my morning devotion time this morning.
Be aware of what holding on to the past does to you
If you keep reliving the moment you decided to put your dog down, if you keep wondering whether euthanasia was the right decision, then you are robbing yourself of your life. Today, right now, is the present – and there is nothing you can do about the past. It is over. It is finished. You can’t bring your dog back, and you aren’t making things better if you stay mired in regret about putting a dog down. Coping with anxiety involves being in the present moment, and not letting the past control you. Awareness of your feelings is the first step in learning how to cope with anxiety.
Allow people to cope with putting a dog down in different ways
The two monks in the parable see life differently, don’t they? The older one was able to make a decision in the present moment, and let it go. He moved on. The younger monk, however, let the past control and negatively affect him – and it wasn’t even his own action that he was considering! After putting your dog down, you and your family or friends may process the experience in different ways. You won’t grieve the same way, nor will you move on the same way. Accept this. Be open to allowing your family and friends have a different experience of putting a dog down – one that may not involve anxiety or regret.
Trust that you made the right decision about putting a dog down
When you decided to put your dog to sleep, you considered everything you knew about the situation. You thought about what the veterinarian said about putting a dog down. You were very aware of your dog’s health and quality of life. Like the older monk in the parable, you made a decision based on your instincts and information – and you have to trust that you made the right choice. The monk who carried the woman made a decision, put her down, and moved forward in his life. The second monk kept carrying the woman in his mind; he let the weight of the past overshadow his present moment.
Take time to memorialize your dog’s life
Have you taken a few minutes to sit quietly, and let your soul say good-bye to your dog? Grieving is a long process, and a healthy part of grief after putting a dog to sleep is to participate in a memorial or formal celebration of your dog’s life.
A Memorial Garden Stone – Always in Our Hearts that reads, “They whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before? They are now forever in our hearts” may be the right way for you to remember your beloved pet, and cope with the anxiety of putting a dog to sleep.
In 7 Beautiful Pet Memorials and Gifts, I share more suggestions for saying good-bye to a dog with love. Take time to think about the best way to resolve your decision to put your dog down, and choose a type of pet memorial that fits you and your personality.
Talk to a counselor about coping with anxiety after putting a dog to sleep
Many, many dog owners are overwhelmed with feelings of regret, sadness, depression, and anxiety after putting a dog to sleep. Instead of processing the grief and working through it, they ignore it. They don’t do anything to actually deal with the negative feelings, and this sets them up for future emotional health issues and problems. If your anxiety about putting your dog to sleep is unmanageable, call a distress line or a counselor. Don’t try to work through anxious feelings by yourself. Don’t let depression or anxiety take hold of your life.
I welcome your thoughts on coping with anxiety after putting a dog to sleep. I can’t offer advice or counseling, but it may help you if you share your experience.