5 ways personal growth results from the grief of losing a dog
Dogs form incredible connections with their humans. It’s indescribable how much a dog can love its owner. A dog’s insatiable need to be close to and loved by their human is a mysterious and beautiful thing that’s been observed for centuries.
The depth and strength of a relationship with a dog can be equal to that which occurs in close human relationships. Probably the most heartbreaking truth about this companionship is that in nearly all cases, the dog is going to pass away long before the owner does. Therefore, no matter how much someone loves their dog, a day will likely come when their loss must be dealt with.
Inevitably, every dog owner will need to go through this harsh reality at some point. When man loses his best friend, there is a painful grieving period that could be as long-lasting as that of a human loss. Sadly, society often fails to recognize the sheer impact that the grief that comes from losing a dog is able to create, and many people will have to face this bereavement without much support. The following are five ways in which the grief of losing a dog can lead to personal growth.
1. Grief can increase your capacity to love
Grief is hard. However, bereavement can also serve as a catalyst for growth. Working through the complex feelings of grief can eventually bring forth positive changes in your life.
Immediately after losing a dog, it’s common to feel like you never want to take in another dog again. After all, every dog is unique and special and one can never replace a good dog who has died. There will never be another dog that could take the beloved pet’s place or have the same quirks or traits that were so dearly loved about the other dog.
However, after some time has passed, many pet owners find that by moving through grief, they come to a place in life where they feel more open in regard to personal relationships to the point where they may actually be able to let another furry friend into their lives. It takes time to get to that point, and for many dog owners, it can be years. However, it never serves as a replacement to get another dog, it simply allows you to expand your capacity to love and doesn’t remove the beloved pet who was there first.
2. Memorializing your pet can improve daily life
It’s easy to feel stuck in the pain of loss. However, when you push forward through this grief, you can learn how to balance the loving memories of your dog along with the ability to continue living your life, which leads to personal growth.
The routine and the time you spent with your dog can become so ingrained in your daily life, that simple things you do, such as a daily walk, can be so hard to complete without your dog by your side. Perhaps you used to go to a park with a dog beach where your lab would meet with another lab owned by a neighbor, and after the loss, you may avoid that route entirely.
In order to move past the pain of the memories, you may find that paying tribute to your dog and honoring fond memories might help keep you from focusing only on the loss. There are many different ways to memorialize a deceased pet. Some people will have the cremated remains of their dog kept in a custom urn which is displayed in the home. A newer trend people are following to honor the life of a dog is to have a cremation diamond made from the ashes of a pet. This memorial diamond is then set in jewelry, such as a necklace or ring, that can be worn for a lifetime. You might even find yourself more able to go to places again, such as the dog beach, where you can talk to the neighbor and show them the diamond you had created from your dog.
3. Bereavement of a dog can expand your spirituality
Spiritual growth is often achieved through grief. When someone experiences bereavement, even when it’s their dog who died, there are a lot of spiritual questions that often run through their mind.
Death makes us face our own mortality as it reminds us that, one day, we all have to die. Through this realization, people start to really think about their spiritual convictions that they have been taking for granted. One thought that people often contemplate is whether or not there is an afterlife for their dog.
Many believe that there is a place where they will one day be reunited with their beloved canine – others don’t. Regardless where your beliefs lie on this subject, through the loss of a dog and the subsequent spiritual journey one goes through, the end result is that one’s spiritual understanding will be enrichened through the reevaluation of these held beliefs.
4. Losing a dog can enable you to better empathize with others
Losing a dog can push you to grow and be better able to empathize and interact with others. After someone has experienced the pain of losing a dog, they will be more able to reach out and help others who are going through the same experience and sadness.
There is a difference between sympathy and empathy. When we sympathize with someone, we feel distressed knowing that they are experiencing a type of sadness. However, when we empathize with someone, we actually feel and understand what someone is going through.
It’s easy to have sympathy for someone who has lost their dog, but if we allow ourselves to truly develop empathy through our own personal loss, we can actually feel the pain they are going through. Because of this experience, a person who lost their pet may be able to reach out and help someone else through a gesture of kindness or helpfulness, or by simply sharing a heartfelt story to let them know that they are not alone.
Through empathy, you are able to stop judging others for their grief and instead participate in that grief with them. You can become a light through the dark tunnel by sharing your loss and experience. This type of growth only comes through the pain of experiencing your own loss.
5. You increase your desire to help others
Although it may not seem plausible to go out and help others when you can barely help yourself immediately following the death of a beloved canine, after some time has passed, this experience often increases one’s desire to go out and help people in different and new ways.
Essentially, this desire to reach out and help others is an extension of that empathy you have developed that understands other grieving pet owners. You might also choose to do things to help other dogs in honor of your own dog. For instance, perhaps you will feel inclined to go to the shelter where you rescued your dog and volunteer to provide care to other dogs.
No matter how your life and personality are shaped through the experience of grief, the goal is always to change for the better. Do not let the negative side of grief wrap you up in emotions such as anger, resentment, and depression. If this is hard for you to work through these feelings, reach out for support when you need it.