Pet Grief and Loss!

Pet Grief and Loss!

Our pets are family members, and bring so much love and joy into our lives, so it’s normal to be heartbroken and feel grief when they’re gone.

Losing a pet can be one of the most heartbreaking experiences we face, whether it’s a dog, a cat, or bird, our animal companions are cherished members of the family.

The pain of losing them can feel overwhelming.

When we choose compassion and quality of life, over our own selfishness, and decide to let our pet go, we often experience extreme sadness and guilt.

We wonder “was this the right time” or “did I make the right decision”.

Even though the grieving process is painful, especially in the first few days, it’s best to give ourselves time.

Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”  – Vicki Harrison



Feeling of Overwhelm!

The pain of losing a pet can feel overwhelming for several reasons:
🐾 Pets become an important part of the family and provide loyalty and affection, creating deep emotional bonds.
🦴 Pets are often by our side constantly providing comfort, support and companionship, and when they’re gone, their absence is painful.
🐾 Pets often suffer in silence, masking their discomfort to protect us. Discovering this can evoke feelings of guilt.
🦴 Pets are part of our daily routines and their absence can leave us feeling lost.
🐾 The suddenness of a pet’s passing can leave us feeling a sense of unfinished business.

Pets provide us with a sense of purpose giving structure and meaning to our lives, without them everything feels meaningless.


How Grief Shows Up!

Overall, the pain of losing a pet shows what deep love and connection we share with them.

It’s important to acknowledge the pain while also seeking support and comfort from loved ones as we navigate the grieving process.

Grief manifests differently for everyone, and can show up in various ways such as:
😭 You might feel overwhelming sadness especially immediately after your pet’s passing, which can show up in waves.
😢 Grief can manifest physically and show up as fatigue, appetite loss, aches and pains, headaches, and sleep disturbances.
😭 Grief can bring about a rollercoaster of anger, guilt, loneliness, or despair, and may vary in intensity.
😢 It’s common to deny the reality of your pet’s death, and expect them to walk through the door or hoping it’s just a bad dream.
😭 You may find yourself constantly replaying memories of your time together, which can bring both comfort and pain.
😢 You may feel lost without their companionship and the activities you shared together.
😭 Grief can sometimes lead to withdrawing from social interactions, where you find it difficult to talk about your pet without becoming emotional.
😢 Some find comfort in looking for signs that their pet is still with them in spirit and these signs can provide solace amidst grief.

Overall, grief is an individual experience and it’s important to allow yourself to feel whatever emotions arise and to seek support.


Triggers!

When it comes to your pet, triggers are cues that evoke emotional responses can include:
🐶 Seeing your pets items or looking at photos or videos.
🐱 Hearing barks, purr, or meows.
😼 Certain smells like their favorite treats, scents in your home, or grooming products.
🐕 Walking routes, parks, or specific rooms in your home.
🐕‍🦺 Your pet’s birthday, adoption day, or the anniversary of their passing, as well as holidays or family gatherings.
🐯 Interacting with other pets or pet owners, and seeing their bond.

Triggers can be unexpected, but it’s important to validate your feelings when they arise.

Finding healthy ways to cope by engaging in self-care activities, can help you navigate the grieving process more effectively.


Pet Spirits and Memorials!

Creating a Pet Memorial May Provide Comfort!When your pet crosses over the rainbow bridge, you may want to look for signs that they’re ok, or that their spirit is still with you.

You could hear sounds such as cries or whimpering, or maybe there’s a change in temperature, a shape of clouds in the sky or maybe you’ll even see a rainbow.

Your animals may appear in your dreams, or you may spot their name unexpectedly when out and about, or suddenly find a feather.

ComfortConnect.com says that you should “Look around and you will see signs that they are near, visiting you from the afterlife“.

Some find comfort in creating memorials for their pet.

This could be planting a tree in their honor or making a scrapbook with favorite memories.

You can create a memorial shelf with your pet’s picture, a candle, and a place to hold their urns.

Another thing you can do is write them a letter, or create a special holiday ornament with their picture on it.

Doing something special in remembrance can be a healing process.

Lastly, remember that it’s okay to consider getting another pet someday if you feel ready.

Your furry family member would want you to be happy and share your love when the time is right.


Setting Boundaries!

During the grieving process for a beloved pet, it’s common to encounter well-meaning but potentially insensitive comments from others.

As you navigate this vulnerable time, it’s important to set boundaries and prioritize and protect your own emotional well-being.

😡 Ignoring your Loss:
If someone ignores or invalidates your pet’s recent passing and attempts to show photos of their new puppy, it can feel dismissive. You might say: “I appreciate your excitement about your new puppy, but I’m still grieving the loss of my pet“.

🤬 Inappropriate Comments:
Inappropriate comments like “It’s just a pet” or “You can always get another one” can be hurtful. You might say: “I know you mean well, but hearing those comments are painful, because my pet was like a child to me, and an important part of my life“.

😡 Expressing Their Own Loss:
Additionally, if someone tries to share their own experience of pet sickness or loss while you’re grieving, it can feel overwhelming and dismissive of your own new and raw emotions. You might say: “I understand that you have your own experiences, but right now, I’m focusing on processing my own grief“.

🤬 Minimizing Grief:
Asking if you’re done grieving can feel dismissive. You might say: “Grieving the loss of my pet is a process that I’m still navigating. I’d appreciate your patience as I continue to heal“.

Setting boundaries helps to protect your emotional space and allows you to focus on processing your own grief.

Remember, it’s okay to prioritize your own needs and feelings during this challenging time.


Self-Care!

Practice Self-Care While Grieving!During time of grief, it’s important to get as much rest as you can and practice self-care. Here are a few ideas!

💙 Engage in your own established daily morning routine. Doing so won’t require you to think, and it’s ok to just go through the motions.

💚 Meditate and exercise when you can, and also take daily walks outside to be with nature.

💜 Cook and assemble days worth of healthy meals, so you won’t have to think about what to eat.

🧡 Drink lots of water because crying can be dehydrating.

💛 Do things you enjoy, even if it’s hard.

🩷 It’s ok if you can’t concentrate or do things that you’d normally do, like listening to a podcast, or watching TV. You may start by writing in a journal.

🩵 You could even do something that doesn’t require much focus like online puzzles, or reading just a few pages of a book.

🤎 Cry as much as you need to, to get it out.  You can do this privately, anywhere at home, even in your shower each day. If you feel the need to cry in public, that’s OK too.

🩶 Book a session with a therapist, take grief classes, or join a grief group. Also sharing emotions with loved ones, can make the burden feel a bit lighter, and provide comfort.

Remind yourself that grieving is an up and down process and everyone is different. You may go back and forth with emotions for awhile and that’s ok. One small step at a time.


Processing Emotions!

Processing Emotions is Crucial!Understandably, during your grieving period, you may feel like distracting yourself in order to avoid suffering.

You can try to suppress your grief, but you can’t avoid it forever. In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems” according to HelpGuide.org.

While constant distraction sounds inviting, see if you can actually be still, work through your emotions, and notice where you feel it in your body.

Although it’s painful, it’s a healthy way to process grief and move it through the body, so healing can begin.

Avoiding grief and saving it for later, only makes the pain and suffering last longer.

Our pets brought joy, comfort, and love into our lives, and they would want us to continue living fulfilling lives even after they’re no longer around.

Caring for ourselves and finding ways to navigate grief is the best way to honor the love and companionship our furry family members brought to our lives.

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” –Anatole France

TOPIC: Pet Loss and Grief

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