How to Handle the Death of a Service Animal



Service animals are a huge part of their owner’s lives. These animal companions assist their owners with various tasks while providing them with an endless amount of emotional support and love. As these service animals make up such a large part of their owner’s lives, it can be particularly devastating when their time on earth comes to an end. While dealing with a loss is never easy, the following tips can make this process more bearable:

Accept the Loss

Understanding how to cope with the loss of a pet isn’t easy. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the passing of your service animal, it’s normal to feel a mix of emotions. It’s common to feel emotions like anger, guilt, and depression at this time. It’s important to allow yourself to experience all of your feelings, so be patient with yourself. This period of mourning won’t last forever and is an essential first step in grieving. Learning to accept the loss will be a process and one that you will likely do over and over. Don’t be too caught up in the ‘right order’ of grieving, as for many, the process takes years.

Experience the Stages of Grief

After losing a service animal, you may not be sure what to feel. The five stages of grief explain each phase and emotion you’ll eventually feel as you process your loss. While you may not recognize each feeling as it happens, as you grieve you’ll likely feel denial, experience anger, try to bargain, feel depressed, and eventually accept the loss. It’s important to know that acceptance, and the entire grief cycle will come and go. You may experience these various stages over again, but as long as you understand what you are experiencing they will overall follow the path towards acceptance.

Find a Support System

Trying to process grief alone can be overwhelming. As service animals are such an integral part of our lives, it can seem impossible to go on after the passing of your pet. Make sure you’re not alone at this time by reaching out to others that know what you’re going through.

Finding a support system will help you connect with family members and friends that will be sympathetic about your loss. Look online for message boards, local support groups, and pet loss hotlines. Connecting to others, whether it’s online or in-person, will allow you to express what you feel and share the memory of your service animal with others.

Focus on Yourself

Losing a service animal can create stress that will easily trigger negative habits. If you’re tempted to give in to depression and stop focusing on yourself, don’t. Remember how happy your animal companion made you feel and treat yourself the same way. They loved and served you, and would want you to still take care of yourself after they are no longer hear.

Service dogs and other animals leave a lasting impact on the lives of their companions. Though this is a difficult time, take comfort in the moments of happiness you shared with your support animal.


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