Vacation Help: trigger warning, dog died

My beloved companion of 10 years passed on suddenly this week. He had a stroke or something at night, woke up disoriented and blind. We made an appointment for the vet, and showered him with love and attention for 2 days, hoping he’d get better. He was a great dog-- I mean he was terrible sometimes and a horrendous puppy, but he was a HUGE part of our family and we were all so heartbroken.

We have a trip that was planned for DL for a couple of days from now- so basically a week from the day of the stroke.

We decided to go on the trip, after all, rather than wallow at home. We are visiting my kids who live on the mainland; it’s a complicated trip with lots of travel within the trip, but DL is at the front and with my 3 kids who live here in Hawaii with me, and were the closest to the dog who passed. My husband wasn’t planning to go on this trip, so he’ll stay home with our other dog who is coping pretty well so far. Luckily he has a fairly light schedule so he can spend a lot of good time with her, just in case she flips out with all this change.

I’m so worried that this trip will be just me crying all the time randomly though, which would bring everyone down. I’m not a weepy person- I have probably only cried in front of my kids a couple of times ever. But this dog… I just cannot.

Any tips for how to compartmentalize or to keep the magic going or to just not be a weepy uncomfortable mess for my Kids? (my husband is a surgeon so he’s amazing at compartmentalizing. I’ve only seen HIM cry 2 times in the 25 years we’ve been together! And he’s cried a few times this week openly over this dog!)

Kids are all older-- 13, 18, 21… So there is no need to explain too much the circle of life but there’s a whole lot of discussions about if dogs go to heaven (Yes) and my 18 yo is having his own existential crisis of the afterlife and what it means…

Anyway, I’ll take any advice at all with much thanks.

Posting in WDW forum vs DL for greater trauma to dog-loving people.


I am so sorry :frowning: That is just terribly, terribly sad.

Many, many people here have visited the parks as a means of coping with losses of all kinds. And I’ve yet to find anyone who regretted going. Those who have shared have generally reported that while there may have been some sad moments, it was helpful to be in such a magical place in such a sad time.

Hugs to you and yours.


Hi - I am so sorry for your loss. I think taking the trip will be good for you and also a distraction. I lost one of my dogs suddenly from a stroke too and it was a very emotional time. From my personal experience I had some good days and bad days. I think the advice I would give is to be prepared if something triggers your grief. For example, I was doing fine one day and then was out at an appointment and saw a picture of a dog that looked like mine on the wall and I felt like I couldn’t breathe for a moment. It was like a tidal wave of emotion that I wasn’t prepared for. I did some deep breathing and got through it so if you experience something like that on the trip, just take a few minutes to yourself and try to calmly breathe in and out.


My Dh had the only pet he ever had pass the night before our trip to DL. His cat of almost 20 years.

I spent the entire morning before DS and DH woke up crying over her at the vet.

Then when the boys woke up, I told them what had happened and we all cried/mourned in the car on the drive down.

But while we were certainly sad, we took comfort in knowing we were able to say goodbye before the trip and knowing she wasn’t “forced” to spend her last days without us.

There were also enough distractions there to keep our thoughts occupied.

We allowed the grief to come in when it wanted, but were able to think loving thoughts and then focus on other things as needed. Everyone grieves differently, so I can’t say it’ll be the same for your family, but we enjoyed the ability to be distracted instead of being stuck in her space without her.

It also gave us practice in redirecting our thoughts to celebrating the time we had with her instead of the sadness of her passing. If we’d get sad, we’d think of one of her funny stories like how she used to take corners too fast on tile floor or how much she “disliked” DS and I for taking her time away from her daddy.

I am so very sorry for your loss, but I hope you enjoy as much of the trip as you can with the kids.


There are so many little spots out of the way of the crowds and watchful eyes of everyone. A nice spot to sit and collect oneself.


My dog was an Airedale and every time I see certain dog food ads or whatever I got emotional-- while he was alive!! Ugh. Thanks for the head’s up, and I’m sorry for your loss as well.[quote=“winnieandzurg, post:3, topic:88310, full:true”]
Hi - I am so sorry for your loss. I think taking the trip will be good for you and also a distraction. I lost one of my dogs suddenly from a stroke too and it was a very emotional time. From my personal experience I had some good days and bad days. I think the advice I would give is to be prepared if something triggers your grief. For example, I was doing fine one day and then was out at an appointment and saw a picture of a dog that looked like mine on the wall and I felt like I couldn’t breathe for a moment. It was like a tidal wave of emotion that I wasn’t prepared for. I did some deep breathing and got through it so if you experience something like that on the trip, just take a few minutes to yourself and try to calmly breathe in and out.


Oh my goodness. I’m so sorry but thank you so much for sharing this. I especially resonate with getting away from the space that just is filled with memories of him— COVID was the best thing to happen to our dogs because all their people were home, all the time! It was party city around here. Always someone to pet them or whatever.


I’m so sad for you! I hope DL (my favorite place in the world, I think) helps you feel better. I took my girls to DL on the one year anniversary of my mom’s death. It also happened to be there spring break. It was especially meaningful because there first ever trip to DL included my mom! So it was actually easier to be there on that anniversary than at home. I think Disney in general is a perfect place to go when you’re grieving because it’s a place where you don’t (generally) have to worry about the outside world and sad endings. Everything is magical and the best day ever. I hope it brings all of you peace and joy to be there!


So sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved dog!

I had a very different experience but along the same lines in Disneyland a few months ago. You can read my thoughts at the post below. Basically I’d just say that we have to keep living our lives, allow ourselves to grieve, but continue to find joy in all the places we can find it.

Maybe you’ll have a moment at Disneyland where you metaphorically find Zuzu’s petals or hear a bell ring (reference to It’s a Wonderful Life), and suddenly you’ll feel a closeness to your companion and you’ll be at peace knowing they have moved on.


I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. :people_hugging: I wouldn’t worry about unexpectedly being sad while on your trip. I think it’s a good opportunity for kids to understand grief and experience some empathy. I also think that there will be enough busyness with the trip to serve as a distraction from feeling down all the time. It can feel wrong sometimes to feel joy or happiness while grieving, but I think it’s healthy.


I am so sorry for your loss. We lost our dog of 10 years last month unexpectedly. The first week was definitely the hardest by all means. I found that the hardest part for me was being home without him.

Although not as soon as with your dog, we just returned home from a trip (it was the 3 week mark) and while we all still miss him dearly, the trip helped us to reset a bit and find a new path forward. I am thinking of you and your family and that you can find joy to hold onto during this difficult time. :two_hearts:


I’m so sorry for your loss. Don’t be afraid to cry or show emotion in front of your kids. You’re human and this is sad. Hopefully the trip will be just what you need to loft your spirits.


It surely is amazing how blindsided we can be by grief. Such a sneaky thing. My feeling has been to ride with it. Go with the flow. When you’re overwhelmed. Look for joy and go with it. Your dog would understand. We’re all only human.

However, being prepared is pretty awesome. Bring hankies!!! :sneezing_face:

Or lap sponges. We have some OR folk in the family and always have a giant bag of white gauzy squares in the house. I generally wash and reuse but disposing works too.

I got blindsided recently at WDW and missed having a nose/face wipe.

It’s like the loss of your furry family member has left your spirits broken. Allowing DL to support you, as a cast would a broken bone, will provide your family time to heal and more easily recall fond - or not! - memories.



I live on my own with my dog, who will be twelve next month.

I’ve been anticipating his death for a long time (I have a pretty negative outlook) and have often wondered what I’ll do when he finally leaves me.

The best I’ve been able to come up with is getting straight on a plane and flying to Orlando. Being at home without him is unthinkable. WDW is a friendly place and that will be helpful, I think. It is also a busy place in the sense that there is lots to do that will distract me from plunging into a dangerously negative pit of despair.

The last time I was really upset was when my ex and I split up. I took a trip to the North East, partly for work reasons. I remember feeling tearful (but brave) in the cab on the way to the airport. The last flight I’d taken was with him. To Paris! And now I was taking a flight alone. But the trip did prove to be a good distraction. One that gave me some helpful physical distance from home.

I’m usually ready to return home to the UK after a trip to Orlando. I’m not sad: I’m excited to see my dog again. That return journey won’t be easy if I do jump on plane to Orlando. I’ve kinda thought I might literally camp out in Orlando until I can bear to go back home and face it again. My trips in October and March demonstrated I can actually work from Orlando, so such a plan is not entirely crazy.


I’m so very sorry for your loss. As others have said hopefully the trip will be a good distraction from the grief. Disney has been there for me on more than one occasion to help cope with loss, I’ll ess


@peggy808 First, I want to offer hugs. We lost our sweet English Setter a week before Christmas last year. She had a similar seizure a few weeks prior that we thought we could nurse her through to no avail. I agree with everyone that although you will be grieving, DL and seeing the rest of your family will also be healing. That kind of happy distraction will help you, especially in the early weeks. It doesn’t mean you won’t take turns crying now and then, but you will also be able to enjoy and support each other as well.


Oh man, I am so very sorry. We lost our beloved black lab to cancer at 10.5 years old 5 years ago and it is still a quick way to start crying to remember her.

My advice is don’t compartmentalize. You’re not at work. You’re on a family vacation. You can feel happy, sad, and, like, 10 other emotions all at the same time. Emotions are complex like that. In the more intense a feeling is, the more it is accompanied by other emotions.

When you feel like crying, let it out. Think of why you’re crying. Remember your dog. Feel the loss. You crying might actually be exactly what your kids need to see. It might be just what they need to see that they can safely release their own sadness about the loss of your dog. Your discomfort is probably from a lack of practice of crying around your kids, I get that, but it’s really important for children, for all of us, to remember that deeply felt emotions are part of the human experience, and it’s something that brings us all together. They might be uncomfortable with it, but if they are, it’s probably even more important for them to see it. Why should they be uncomfortable with the expression of deeply felt emotion? Like sadness and the loss of someone so loved?

That being said, I’m not suggesting that you have to cry in front of them. Grief always shows itself in just the way you need it to. I’m just saying if the tears come when you’re alone, let them. If the come when you’re around others, let them.

Discomfort isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s a sign that we are witnessing something important.

I hope you have a lovely trip. I hope you have many fond instances of remembering your dog. I hope it brings you and your kids closer together


What a powerful story that was- thank you for sharing! Sometimes the world is overwhelming, and even today I chastised myself for grieving my dog when most places couldn’t even imagine the luxury of having a pet, just to be… a companion…

Life is about the living, I guess. It’s good to be plugged into the needs of the world but it’s important to feed our souls too.


Seeing me and their dad just total messes has been pretty therapeutic for them… They seem to understand that it’s ok to mourn, to be sad, and to show grief. But we all have to keep going on, and that’s it’s ok while you’re doing your daily living to also have moments of just palpable grief. Since my kids at home with me are 13 and 18, these are the two who are witnessing the grief, they are also old enough to process and I think they have felt more free to express their sadness.

Also, now my husband’s coworkers know that he isn’t actually a robot. So there’s that. (“His heart grew 3 sizes that day…”)


Oh man, this is super tough. I was dreading this, DREADING, since he was about 9.5 and starting to slow down a lot. He was a big dog, about 90 lbs, and had the typical big dog issues but never complained about them. He was happy as could be just being with his people, and with his “sister” (our other dog). Clearly he still enjoyed life- I mean I could see him smiling. But he even smiled when we were at the vet in his last moments. I felt like he was giving us so much peace and love there. Like, HE was comforting us.

I don’t know why, but the death of my dog has hit me differently than, for instance, the deaths of my grandparents. My parents are still with me, and I’ve lived (obvs) a pretty pampered life… In the “comfort room” at the vet where we said goodbye, there was a sign on the wall that said “A dog… the only one on earth who loves you more than he loves himself.” (Along with a quote from Tinkerbell in Disney font, which was nice: “You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming, that’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”)

Anyway, as we were saying goodbye to our big pal and I was reading these little sayings to distract myself, it just struck me as so true. He was always there for us, totally. I was so profoundly grateful to have the 10 years with him; just wished it were more. I know he would be willing to stay with us longer, had his body been at all capable of holding out.

No doubt about it; pets are special.