Grief Support: 5 Things to Help You Heal

That we experience loss is an inevitability.  Part of the beauty and mystery of life is that it does, ultimately, come to an end.  The loss of a Pet can be as significant as the loss of any other member of your family and coping can be just as hard. Whether through natural death or through a peaceful, in-home euthanasia, the sense of loss can be visceral.  As with any kind of loss, time is a great healer.  However, there are several things to bear in mind to help you through the loss of a beloved Pet.

1. Be compassionate to yourself

Accept how you feel.  People may not understand your sense of loss or how much you hurt but this doesn’t render your feelings invalid.  As Shakespeare put it, “everyone can master a grief but he that has it”! Give yourself space to sit with your feelings but don’t allow yourself to wallow in them.  Give yourself a certain amount of time to think of them each day,  perhaps during a walk, but make sure you don’t let the grief disrupt your routine.  Make sure you care for your body as well as your mind by attending to your diet, exercise and sleep.

2. Lean on others

You don’t have to go through this alone!  It’s in times like this that friends and family are the foundation you can lean on for support.  Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability.  You may worry that you are being too intense or rambling on but a caring friend won’t mind lending an ear or a shoulder to cry on.  They are interested in making sure you are ok. And if that’s not enough, seek out a support group or a therapist.  Impartial, compassionate strangers can be instrumental in getting you to a place of acceptance.  Some resources you can start with are listed at the end of this article.

3. Expect setbacks

Many people are familiar with the 5 stages of grief:- Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  However, it’s easy to feel pressure to progress through these stages neatly and in order.  The reality is that the path to acceptance looks different for everyone.  You may progress through the stages in order.  You may skip all but one.  You may move backwards and forwards through the stages for months.  All of these are valid.  Don’t pressure yourself to grieve, ‘correctly’.  Instead accept the impermanence of your current condition and keep your compassion for yourself.  And when things are tough remember the ancient Persian adage, ‘this too shall pass’.

4. Help others

Often, you can channel your grief to great positive ends.  Whether it’s providing emotional support to friends or family who were also bonded to your pet or through giving back to a pet related charity, the act of giving can provide an abundance of emotional benefit.  Just make sure you are leaving space for your own healing too.

5. Memorialize your Pet

Part of grieving in the longer term can include appropriate memorialization of your Pet.  Whether this means an urn of their ashes, a tree planted in their name or even a burial site, having such physical anchors to our Pet provides us with an ongoing connection to them and affords comfort and solace.  There are so many beautiful and thoughtful memorial options available.  At HomeHeart Vets we offer many different options and are happy to talk you through these if you have any questions.  Giving to
charity in the name of your Pet is one very common and thoughtful way to keep the spirit of your Pet alive. The reality is that, even incorporating these practices, you will most likely be left raw and wounded for some time after your Pet passes.  For many, this will not be the first time you have experienced the loss of a Pet.  Know that the pain you experience is normal and reflects the love you had for all the joy and happiness you and your Pet brought each other.  Our Pets live such short lives but in them they leave indelible marks on us.  Our grief is the price we pay for love.

Resources

The following organizations offer a wealth of Pet specific grief support resources including telephone hotlines, online forums, articles and more:

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