Our animal family members provide us with joy, loyalty, and unconditional love. The loss of a beloved pet can be an excruciating experience. Despite that, our society can trivialise or even mock the extreme grief that many pet owners suffer during their bereavement. This sadness can be as intense as the loss of a partner, close relative, or friend.
As research suggests, grief at the passing of a pet can last for months to a year or longer. Due to the fact most pets don’t live as long as their human owners, most owners will experience the loss of a beloved furry friend at some point in their lives.
So what are some of the things you can do to better cope during this time? Consider the eight strategies below.
1. Acknowledge your grief
Acknowledging your grief can be therapeutic in the aftermath of a pet’s death. Start by acknowledging your grief is real and let yourself feel the emotion rather than suppressing it, being fearful of it, or not taking it seriously because your pet wasn’t human. Acknowledgment is important because, most significantly, it enables you to overcome any denial you might be feeling, which is common during grief. You can then admit to how the loss has impacted you and find ways to address it.
2. Celebrate and memorialize their life
Finding ways to celebrate and memorialize your pet’s life can be healing when you’re grieving. For example, you can have a small memorial service to farewell your pet, recall your fondest memories or look at photos of your pet.
You might have spiritual or other personal ways to memorialize your pet’s life. This could be lighting a candle, or even holding a funeral with a service after the loss of a beloved pet. Remember, what’s appropriate is what feels right for you and your family.
You can also create a legacy like planting a tree or compiling a scrapbook or an online photo collection of memories. Anything that lets you remember the joy and love your pet gave you can be helpful.
3. Open up about your grief to others
It can be healing to share your grief with others. These can include people who knew your pet and who are also grieving. Alternatively, it could be friends who are open to listening to you share your memories and feelings about your pet. Make sure they understand your feelings and won’t judge you or try to play down your grief because you lost an animal companion rather than a human family member.
4. Write down your feelings
Writing down your feelings can support your healing. For example, you can try writing a love letter to your pet, journalling, or writing essays, short stories, or poems about your pet. If you have other ways of self-expression such as drawing or music, you can express your grief through painting, singing, or playing music.
The act of expressing your feelings can help you through the process as you won’t be bottling up your feelings. Instead, you’ll have different ways of expressing your emotions, which ultimately helps you come to terms with them.
5. Join a support group
Joining a pet-loss support group lets you get in touch with others who are going through the same experience as you. Look online for support networks. Chat with others to share your feelings and thoughts.
You can also explore pet-loss counseling services and pet-loss support hotlines. In addition, look for books, videos, articles, and other resources that give you new ideas and perspectives on dealing with your grief.
6. Be patient with the process
Be gentle with yourself and stay patient when you’re grieving. Keep in mind that everyone grieves in different ways and there’s no fixed process. It can take someone weeks and another person years to process their grief completely.
You may feel denial and depression before you come to accept your loss. Be aware of your emotions and allow yourself to feel and process them with patience. Gradually, your grief can fade with time even if the sorrow never completely goes away.
7. Practise personal care
Practise self-care as you go through the grieving process. For example, you may want to take some time off work so you have more space and time for your healing. Relaxing activities like taking a warm bath, meditation, and yoga can help.
On the other hand, trying something new like a hobby you’ve always wanted to attempt can give you a mental break when you need it. While it’s important to acknowledge and feel your grief, breaks can help you move on from the loss of a beloved pet.
Focusing your mind on a new skill, whether it’s playing a new instrument, planting an edible garden, or craftwork can interrupt repetitive mental patterns and give you some relief from the sorrow.
The grief we feel after losing a pet is often underestimated by our society and the wider community. If you’ve lost an animal family member, the first step is to acknowledge your grief. Take time to celebrate and memorialize your pet’s life in your own way.
Find someone you trust to talk about your feelings so you’re not dealing with them alone. Writing down your thoughts and feelings, joining a support group, and helping others in your household with their grief can also help you cope better.
Above all, be patient with yourself and take care of yourself by practicing self-care. Losing a pet is never easy. However, by working through your grief, you’ll eventually find peace and come to cherish the memories of your beloved furry friend.
Read more from Jacqui Coombe at https://www.opentohope.com/understanding-our-emotions-during-grief/
Tags: pet loss