"The guilt, finality and emptiness of the house weigh hard on your heart and mind," says Hanna.

"It is imperative to trust that at the moment when you were forced to make that big decision, you did so from a position of love," Kurz says. "Don't play the 'what if' game. Grief and sadness are important validations of your love, but do not cheat that process with doubt and guilt."

Anderson agrees.

"Locking away grief doesn't make it go away. Express it. Cry, scream, pound the floor, talk it out. Do what helps you the most," Anderson says.

Someone To Share With

Hanna found that talking to others helped.

"I shared my grief and tried to celebrate Liesel's life by gathering pictures and making a scrapbook. I found the Humane Society of Broward County grief support group to be very comforting," says Hanna. "I also did the Humane Society of Broward County Walk for the Animals in her honor. Creating good from loss is also very healing."

A New Pet

While getting a new pet right away might seem like a good way to ease your pain, you should avoid the temptation.

"Get your doggie love fix by hugging your friends' dogs," Hanna suggests.

If there are other pets in your household, you should note that they grieve as well. Pets observe every change in a household and are bound to notice the absence of a companion. But the love of your surviving pets can be wonderfully healing for your own grief.

"As painful as losing a pet is, it is truly a privilege to be blessed by the love of an animal. I learned patience, kindness, trust, humility and many other virtues in a way that only a loving creature totally dependent on you can teach. I am a much better human because of her love," Hanna says.

Cassidy says she read somewhere that a dog is part of your life, but you are your dog's life.

"With that in mind, I tried to give River the best life I could manage and showered him with love whenever I was able. I feel grateful to have shared the nine years we had together. And as much as I saved him from the pound, he saved me at a time in my life when I needed a friend and companion," she says.

'You Are Not Alone'

"Don't let others dictate your feelings. You are not alone. Thousands of pet owners have gone through the same feelings," Anderson says. And as Cassidy notes, the love we share with our pets never dies.

"Maybe he's in that wind that blows across my cheek, or that wave that washes up on the beach," she says. "Perhaps his energy has returned in the buds that are showing themselves on the spring trees. I know he's still with me, still out there in some form somewhere. He'll be with me always."

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