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  • Writer's pictureNicola Smith

Dog Grief: Therapeutic Writing as a Tool for Healing

flowers by a pen with writing. Emplied to be writing expressing ones feeling after the loss of their dog.

Part four of a four-part series on Animal-related grief
By Nadja Lubiw-Hazard, DVM

For those struggling with grief after the loss of a companion animal, writing can be a very powerful tool for healing. A tremendous amount of research demonstrates the benefits gained through writing about traumatic and challenging experiences. Narrating one’s story allows for the discovery of new thoughts, feelings and ideas, and leads to new understanding and insight. According to Tonkin’s Model of Grief, we needn’t try to get rid of our grief; instead, over time, we will start to have new understandings, experiences and joys, as we grow around the grief. Therapeutic writing can aid in this growth.

According to Louise DeSalvo, author of Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives:


“We are the accumulation of the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. So changing our stories can change our personal history, can change us. Through writing, we visit our past and review it and revise it. What we thought happened, what we believed happened to us, shifts and changes as we discover deeper and more complex truths. It isn’t that we use our writing to deny what we’ve experienced. Rather we use it to shift our perspective.”

Sandra Marinella, author of The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness or Loss, explains that there are five stages of writing and healing:

· Experience the pain and grief

· Break the silence

· Accept and piece together a shattered story

· Find meaning or making sense of a story

· Rewriting the story and moving forward

For those ready to try therapeutic writing, and move through the five stages of writing and healing, writing prompts can be very helpful. Rather than simply journalling, prompts target specific topics, and guide the writer through the process.

Here are three writing prompts to try over the next few days:

man hugging golden retriever and the dog looking like he is smiling

1) Write about when you first brought your animal home. Where was your animal from? How did you choose their name? What do you remember the most fondly about your first days with them?

2) Write a letter from your companion animal to you. What would your animal want you to know about their time with you? What are they thankful for? What did they love the most about you?

3) What does your dog grief feel like today? What did it feel like when you first lost your companion animal?


For those interested in finding more writing prompts, consider the following options: Mille Jacob’s book, The Pet Loss Guide: A 31-day plan to lead you through your loss, provides a month’s worth of writing prompts on topics such as self-care, supports, expressing your grief, and what brings you hope. Through Ruff Times, a Toronto-based group dedicated to keeping people and pets together, distributes Growing with Grief kits through their Pet Loss support program. The kit includes some lovely self-care items, as well as a page of writing prompts.

If you plan to write, consider starting a new journal dedicated to your loved one. Your writing might be another wonderful way to remember your animal and to re-experience not just the grief, but all the love you shared. Above all, remember that you are not alone with your grief. Find comfort, not just in your own writing, but in the writing of others. Here, to end this series, is a lovely quote from the novelist John Galsworthy: “No stone stands over where he lies. It is on our hearts that his life is engraved.”

About the Author:


Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Nadja worked as a veterinarian, most recently at the Toronto Humane Society. Her short stories have been published in numerous literary magazines, and her first novel, The Nap-Away Motel, was published in 2019. Nadja facilitates therapeutic writing workshops through CAMH (Centre for Addictions and Mental Health) for people who are struggling with grief after the loss of their companion animal. Learn more about her writing and her workshops at

We decided to create another Blog Post with photos dedicated to some of the cherished dogs from the We Wag Dog Walking Toronto crew who have crossed the rainbow bridge. Look below for the link



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