Grieving the Loss of a Pet 3
This is the third in a series of three blogs about grieving the loss of a pet. When someone close to us dies, whether it’s a partner, a relative or a good friend, people around us are usually quick to offer sympathy, comfort, and offerings of sincere condolence. Grief is expected, crying and getting emotional are totally accepted. But what happens when we lose a much-loved pet? A cat knocked over by a car or a terminally ill dog having to be put down by a vet? Can we expect the same kind of support and understanding?
Many bereaved pet owners say that most people (unless they have been through something similar) do not understand the depth of their grief. Some even experienced the gross insensitivity of a comment like, “Why don’t you just get another cat/dog?” Many of us view our pets as a family member, as cherished and valued as all the other members.
My previous two blogs looked at some of the reasons why feelings evoked can be so painful and what can complicate things and so delay or hijack the grieving process. This final blog looks at what we can do to help ourselves in the mourning of our loss:
Be patient and kind with yourself
This is the first key to dealing with your grief effectively. Our losses are real, painful, and evoke a variety of strong emotions and memories. Any time you find yourself wishing you were dealing with things better, to go past this stage, remind yourself that your emotional processing has no set endpoint. You’re in mourning and, by pressuring yourself, you only make yourself feel worse.
Talk to someone who “gets it”
Find at least one person you can talk to about your loss, someone who has also been through what you are going through now in terms of grieving for a much loved animal.
Celebrate your pet’s life
It’s worth taking some time out to write down your thoughts and feelings or by sharing your pet’s story (and precious photos) with that safe person. What are some special memories? What were his or her personality features? What will you miss the most? Unlike the painful times at the end of life, these are things you really DON’T want to forget. And talk about this to that someone who really gets it.
Engage in rituals
From the beginning of civilisation, humans have prescribed ways to mourn. We have funerals, ceremonies, and anniversaries of the beloved’s death acknowledged. These rites are designed to help us grieve and to remember our loved ones. Create your own rituals for your pet – there are no rules here – do exactly what feels right for you and your family. You might plant a small tree or shrub – a living tributes that will continue as a reminder for years to come.
Don’t rush to dispose of possessions
What do I do with the food bowl, bed, or blankets now? It’s important to take your time. The first step can be to move them to a different location from where they usually were. You might want to, for example, simply move their bed out of your bedroom as a first step – this can help the transition. You can later make a decision on what to do with the bed.
Remember what would your pet would have done if he or she found you sad and in pain, as you are now? The answer is clear: he or she would have given you endless love and comfort, and would have stayed with you as long as it took.
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!