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Lola, Nobody tells you what to do when your dog dies, Why is losing a dog so painful, How do you get over the grief of losing a dog?

Coping with the Deafening Absence After Losing Your Dog

The Quiet House, The Empty Halls

by Deborah Cruz

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

There’s a reason they call dogs “man’s best friend.” They worm their way into the deepest crevices of our hearts and become inextricable parts of our families. So when the day comes to say goodbye, it absolutely shatters you.

Last year, on May 6th, our beloved Lola, a sweet, quirky Victorian bulldog who’d been by my side for over a decade, passed away. Her loss left a chasm in my soul that still hasn’t closed, even weeks later.

Our Lola was more than just a pet – she was our furry child, a bright light during one of the darkest chapters of our lives. Back in 2012, my world imploded after suffering a devastating miscarriage and losing our first boxer, Saffaron. I vividly remember curling up night after night, hollowed out by grief, utterly convinced that my family would never make it through that gaping void of compounded loss.

Then, on December 14th of that same year, Lola quite literally pranced into our lives – a tiny ray of hope swathed in a big pink bow. From the moment we locked eyes with her sweet, gentle spirit, we knew she was our family’s redemption and path to healing. Lola filled every nook and cranny of our broken hearts with her pure, unconditional love.

She was there for us through all the ups and downs over the next decade – our steadfast, loyal companion who sensed our every sadness and snuggled up to us until the sorrow temporarily melted away. When I shattered my leg in 2015 and couldn’t walk for 3 months, Lola stayed dedicated by my side day and night, raising my spirits in a way only she could.

Our bond went far deeper than most people share with their household pets. We loved our Lola as fiercely and wholeheartedly as we love our human children. So you can imagine the earth-shattering despair when her health began rapidly declining in the summer of 2022 due to Cushing’s Disease.

Why Losing a Dog Leaves You Broken

For months, I had to hand-feed Lola, spoon by tiny spoon, as she grew weaker and more emaciated before my eyes. My heart shredded further each day watching her die a slow, undignified death despite our relentless vet visits and medication protocols. It’s impossible to know when to let go. We were in constant contact with our vet to make sure that she wasn’t in pain,

I tried preparing for the inevitable while paradoxically holding out hope for a miracle. I told myself “When the time comes, at least you’ll know you cherished every second with her and eased her suffering in the end.”

But as all my fellow pet parents know, those affirmations offer little solace when you’re suddenly staring into the eyes of your beloved fur baby and realizing this might be the last time. On May 6, 2023, Lola collapsed in the yard, finally succumbing to her illness. The light faded from her warm brown eyes as she locked her gaze on mine, silently communicating this was her final goodbye.

That pit of dread and grief was all too familiar, conjuring up the anguish of my miscarriage – that same powerless feeling of watching someone you’d give your life for slip away. I promised myself I’d hold Lola until her final breaths, stroking her soft fur and reassuring her that everything would be okay. For hours, I cradled her in my arms, violently sobbing as I felt her tiny heartbeat grow faint under my fingertips.

When the inevitable occurred and Lola finally stopped breathing, a part of me went still and cold too. We rushed her to the emergency vet not to save her, but to ease her transition to the other side since she seemed trapped between two realms. Standing in that sterile lobby begging strangers to help my baby as her limp body hung in my arms…I’ve never felt so hopeless and hollowed out.

How to (Try to) Heal a Shattered Heart

Lola was more than just a beloved pet – she was a child to me, a treasured family member whose cuddles and kisses provided comfort unmatched by anything else. Her love helped carry us through some of life’s most traumatic, arduous valleys. And now, home no longer feels like home; living in a Lola-less house each day is like being stabbed anew.

My morning routine is forever altered – there’s no tiny wagging tail to greet me or watchful brown eyes following my every move as I get ready. No affectionate snuggles as I breakdown in tears reaching for her favorite soft blankets that still hold the smell of her. I see her everywhere yet nowhere. One saving grace is that we have Stella, the Dogue de Bourdeaux we adopted the spring before we found out Lola was sick but even so, our Lola was irreplaceable.

Friends and loved ones with the best intentions still mention our sweet Lola. But they couldn’t possibly comprehend the permanence of this loss. Just like humans, our pets leave indelible pawprints on our lives that we’ll carry forever.

While the searing pain of acute grief does inevitably dull over time, for those of us who love our pets as our own children, that dull ache never fully disappears. We simply learn to rebuild our lives around the holes they’ve left in our hearts.

One step at a time, one fond memory at a time, we transform our sadness into newfound gratitude for the unconditional love they bestowed upon us. For me, this pain transcends just being “sad Lola’s gone.” More than anything, I feel deep regret, knowing we’ll never again experience her constant companionship, her intuitive snuggles on my darkest days, those small joys that comprised my “normal” for over a decade. No other pet could ever replace the sacred space she occupied.

So if you’re grappling with this same devastation, please be gentle with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for days when you can’t pull it together, because this grief is incredibly disruptive and all-encompassing. Let the waves of sadness crash over you – cry until your heart feels hollow again if you have to. Your pain is valid and real.

Most importantly, keep your beloved pet’s spirit alive by sharing their story and honoring their unconditional love. I’m finding solace in reliving all the hilarious Lola tales that made our family roar with laughter over the years. Though our home feels emptier without her tiny paws clicking across the hardwoods, she’ll always be our guardian angel on the other side of the rainbow bridge.

In time, we’ll be able to celebrate Lola’s life without feeling consumed by tears. We’ll adopt another rescue and pay forward the boundless affection she shamelessly showered us with each day.

Until then, we’ll continue leaving the porch light on for our sweet girl, so she knows there’s still a way back home to the people who love her most.

A Call to Honor Our Beloved Pet’s Memories

I’m sharing Lola’s story today because I know I’m not alone in feeling this profound, seismic heartbreak and upheaval after an adored pet passes away. Whether your baby had fur, feathers, scales, or something else, their absence leaves a cavernous void that humans are simply not equipped to navigate gracefully.

So let’s build a community to uplift each other through these brutal, raw moments. If you’ve ever lost your own furry BFF, please leave a comment sharing their name and a fond memory that still makes you smile through the tears. Let’s swap coping strategies, survival tips, and most importantly – humor and hope that our pets’ legacies will carry us through the darkness.

We’re in this together, opening our arms and hearts as wide as our four-legged friends taught us unconditional love means. Hug your babies a little tighter today and be ever-grateful for their pawprints on your soul. After all, it’s better to have loved and lost an irreplaceable pet than never experienced their extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime companionship at all.

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