7 Things You Can Do to Heal After Pet Loss (Part 2)

This article was written by KimS, on December 17, 2012

7 Things You Can Do to Heal After Pet Loss

The healings begins after losing a pet.

(Read Part 1 of this article here.)
What happens when our beloved pet dies? Are our friends, family and co-workers equally as accepting? And for that matter, are we accepting of our own grief – or do we simply try to function “on top” of the feelings?

“After all,” they say, “it was just a dog,” “only a cat,” or “just a parakeet.” The fact that this wonderful animal had been a stalwart companion for over fourteen years – or ten, or even just five – wasn’t considered important.

Here are some things you can do to heal after pet loss:

#3: Don’t be Afraid to Let the Feelings Come
As a child of the 1950s, I was taught not to show my feelings; to go to my room to cry in isolation. This was not what I wanted for my sons. So I helped them to express their feelings by showing my own vulnerability. Robert Frost wrote, “The best way out is always through.” He was right; you’ve got to express your sorrow to move through it. Feel like crying? Do so; it’s healing.

#4: Be Gentle with Yourself and Others
After burying Gus, we were exhausted. After all, digging, singing and crying, are all hard work. Not to mention the weeks of hospice care we provided him – there was a lot of tension and anxiety – which is also taxing on the body. Whatever your situation, remember: you are physically affected by the experience. Be kind and patient with everyone – including you.[pullquote]However you choose to “celebrate” the memories, do your best to make it a loving, ritual occasion.[/pullquote]

#5: Make No Big Decisions
This is one of the most important things I tell families who are faced with the loss of an animal companion. Don’t think getting another pet right away will make diminish the grief – it can actually make it worse. Whatever big decision you need to make, postpone it – at least for a few weeks or even months.

#6: Practice Excellent Self-Care
Without doubt, the grieving process puts a huge strain on your body. It can lower your resistance and leave you open for true physical ailments. Get plenty of rest, eat well, and exercise regularly. The training sessions we did in preparation for the Gussie Memorial Run were an integral part of our recovery.

You may also choose to purchase a personalized Tribute Blanket, so you can wrap yourself up in a symbol of your pet’s constant love. That’s a very popular choice made by many of the families I’ve worked with over the years.

Another part of “excellent self-care” may include reaching out to find grief support services for yourself or another. If that sounds like something you may need, I’ve included a list of six pet loss hotline websites in the resources section below.

#7: Celebrate the Memories
The boys and I acknowledged anniversaries of Gus’s passing by gathering at his grave, where we each lighted a candle and shared one of our favorite memories of this remarkable canine companion. At first we gathered weekly; then, monthly. After about six months, I could tell the boys were “ready to let go” – and we gathered there only once more: on the one-year anniversary of his death. However you choose to “celebrate” the memories, do your best to make it a loving, ritual occasion.

Remember…This Too Shall Pass
Buddha said, “Everything changes; nothing remains without change. The Persian poet Sufi is credited with the world-renowned phrase, “This too shall pass.” At times like this, both are worth remembering.

While you may sometimes feel that your loneliness and pain will not dissipate, I’m here to say that it will – because all things change. But, when you actively pursue recovery from loss, you empower yourself (and those around you) – which brings about – not just change – but true healing. You will be able to reach a point where you understand the wonderful words of Dr. Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile, because it happened.”

Guest Contribution By: Funeral Home Gifts

Prize sponsor for our Christmas Pet Photo Contest!

Funeral Home Gifts weaves beautiful tapestry Tribute Blankets and offers them through death care providers throughout North America. Tribute Blankets provide ongoing comfort to families grieving over the loss of cherished pets. The blanket, personalized with a photo of their pet, actually helps them get through the dark days and months after a death. Loved ones cuddle up with the blanket every night and many families keep the blanket displayed in their homes, keeping the memory alive.

To enroll with Funeral Home Gifts as a provider of Tribute Blankets to your families, or to identify a provider near you, contact Gina Richards at Funeral Home Gifts – 800-233-0439 ext. 214 or e-mail gina@funeralhomegifts.com.


Resources: Pet Loss Hotlines

[one_half] College of Veterinary Medicine
Cornell University

College of Veterinary Medicine
University of California, Davis

College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Illinois

[/one_half] College of Veterinary Medicine
Michigan State University

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
Tufts University

College of Veterinary Medicine
Washington State University

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