How to get through the first Christmas without your pet

As with much-loved humans who we may be missing at Christmas time, the first Christmas without your dog or cat (or any Christmas without your pet for that matter), can feel tough.

Perhaps you included your pet in special Christmas traditions, like preparing a special doggie dinner or fish cake for your kitty while the humans sit down to their roast. 

Maybe your tree was elevated on a table or you had a fence around it to keep your fur child from attacking the decorations. Or you might usually hang up a Christmas stocking with your pet’s name on it, to fill with special treats and toys.

Whatever tradition you and your family usually have to include your pet at Christmas time, the holiday will probably feel a little different this year without them.

As dedicated pet owners, we carry our grief with us over the months and years, and it becomes a part of who we are. But if you are grieving a pet during the holiday season, there are things you can do to honour and celebrate your best mate, even without them physically here. 

We’ve put together seven tips to help you and your family prepare for your first Christmas without your pet. We hope these ideas will give you some inspiration to help celebrate your pet after they have crossed the Rainbow Bridge.


7 tips for getting through first Christmas without your pet

1. Put out decorations

A special reminder that your four-legged pal is still a part of our family is to hang a personalised ornament for them on the Christmas tree. It might be a little pug or kitten ornament to represent your furry family member, or a bauble with their name on it. 

For more creative fur parents, you might create an ornament from your pet’s photo or even paw print if you have one on hand. This is a nice project to get kids or grandkids involved with as well.

You may even have tree decorations from previous years. Don’t keep them in a box, hang them up and celebrate that special bond.



A paw print ornament is a nice tribute at Christmas without your pet
A paw print ornament is a nice tribute at Christmas without your pet.


2. Display family photos

Pets are important family members, so it’s common for them to be included in Christmas family snaps or Santa photos from previous years. It’s a nice idea to print out these pics and add them to a frame to feature prominently near the Christmas tree, nativity scene or any prominent decoration. 

A pic of Max looking unimpressed about having to wear reindeer ears or tearing up wrapping paper can stir up fond memories shared with your furry friend. Reminders like those can help us feel connected to our pets, even when they are no longer here.


3. Continue the spirit of giving

If you usually hang a stocking with your pet’s name in it, continue to do so. But instead of filling it with treats this year, you can donate what you would usually spend on your pet to an animal shelter. Check with your local shelters to find out their supply needs – they may prefer donated food, toys, or a blanket rather than cash.

4. Reshape traditions

Did you have a regular path that you walked your dog? Take the stroll alone and reflect on previous journeys. 

Remember the joy your pooch brought as you walked together – or rather, reminisce about how annoying they were when they had to pee on every tree along the way and barked at dogs much larger than them.

Mark your first Christmas without your pet by displaying a picture of them in Christmas spirit.
Displayling a picture of your pet in the Christmas spirit can stir up fond memories shared with your furry friend.


5. Get out the popcorn

There have been so many feel-good movies that place dogs in the spotlight, so grab some popcorn (and maybe a box of tissues). Some that come to mind are:

  • Lady and the Tramp (the animated or live-action versions)
  • Lassie
  • Bolt
  • Milo and Otis
  • Frankenweenie
  • Homeward Bound
  • Scooby-Doo 
  • The Secret Life of Pets 
  • The Shaggy Dog
  • Turner and Hooch
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven
  • Hotel for Dogs 

If you’re feeling festive, there’s always Santa Paws and Santa Paws 2.  


6. Treat yourself

It’s the holidays after all, so why not embrace the spirit of giving and treat yourself? 

No matter your budget, there’s always something you can gift yourself. It might be a book or video game, a new outfit, a massage or a manicure. Or it can be something intangible like a sleep-in, a day off from chores, or a catch-up with a close friend. 


7. Do nothing

Feel whatever it is you need to feel. If celebrating doesn’t feel right this year, then ignore those other tips and do nothing. It’s totally acceptable to not want to put up a Christmas tree this year or deck the halls with boughs of holly. 

Pet grief is a natural part of losing a pet. There are no rules about how every person must grieve, so acknowledge your first Christmas without your pet in a way that is right for you. 


Getting through the first Christmas without your pet

The first Christmas without your pet can be truly heartbreaking. But the eternal bond that dedicated pet owners share with their pets never goes away. 

Despite our pets being no longer with us, we will always be ‘fur mums’ and ‘fur dads’. We owe it to our fur children to celebrate the love they showed us. 

It might be a little quieter this year without the pitter-patter (or loud stomping) of little paws. We may not have as many destroyed decorations to replace, but the first Christmas without your pet can still be a memorable one.

Remember that your pet lived in the moment. Take that life lesson from them and don’t deny yourself the happiness that the present can offer.

You might also find our article 5 pet memorial ideas to honour your pet's life helpful.

A pet memorial is a normal part of the grief journey, to pay tribute to their life and the impact they made on yours. To find out about the personalised pet memorial options we provide with our services at Goodbye Good Boy, give us a call on 1800 573 186 or visit us online at goodbyegoodboy.com.au.