Life comes with many ups and downs, and we often find ways to search for meaning in our day to day lives. For those of us who are animal lovers, having our pets by our side can make us feel loved and supported. Losing a beloved pet can be difficult, and it can be hard to get the support we need while grieving.
The disenfranchised grief that many people face can feel very lonely, especially when our pets mean the world to us. Society is beginning to acknowledge the hardships that come along with losing a pet, and it is important for individuals to feel heard and validated through this process.
How to manage pet loss grief
Here are 5 valuable tips to manage pet loss grief, so you can find your way through and know how to move forward efficiently.
1. Understand That it is Normal to Grieve for Your Pet
It is completely normal and valid to feel your feelings regarding pet loss, whether you are anticipating the loss of your pet, or you have already lost them. There will be many feelings surrounding loss, and for many it will depend on your relationship with your pet. Getting your feelings out is important for you to grieve properly. Allow yourself to express your feelings to a trusted friend or family member, or your veterinarian.
2. Look for Healthy Support from Others
Finding healthy support will look different for everyone. Some may have people in their lives who will hold space for them to help process their loss, and some may prefer to seek out support groups instead. There are ton of online resources, and many books and articles on pet loss that can be found. The point is that pet loss can be just as significant as any other type of loss, and seeking support is helpful. There is no shame in asking for help! This a normal part of being human. If you feel like you are having a hard time, then maybe it is time to consider reaching out.
3. Take Care of Your Self
Try to find ways to be kind to yourself as you process your grief. Practicing self-care is vital to allow yourself to feel and process your emotions authentically. Journaling is a very powerful tool when dealing with any form of grief. With pet loss grief, it can be difficult to feel safe to voice your grief out loud to others, however journaling and reaching out to gain healthy support can assist with this. I always say that journaling is like talking to a person or a pet who won’t talk back or give advice, which is sometimes just what we need. Try taking a walk outside, practicing mindfulness, or try writing down your raw thoughts and feelings. Trust yourself and what you need.
4. Consider How You May Find Meaning in Your Loss
Honoring your feelings is only one part of your pet loss journey. That is just it-it is your pet loss journey! The other part of this is honoring your pet, and finding ways to do so as you see fit. Some ideas are to create a photo album of your pet or finding other ways to memorialize your pet. When I lost my girl, I had a stranger from a support group offer to paint her portrait and I now have that painting hung up in my home to honor her. The key to finding meaning in your pet loss journey is to make it your own, and to do what you feel works for you.
5. Determine Your Needs
Sometimes the grief we experience is very difficult to manage. Are you experiencing symptoms of depression that are affecting your life because of your pet loss? Are you unable to partake in things you once enjoyed and are you reminded of other unresolved issues in your life as a result of losing your pet? Do you feel like you are really struggling and nothing is helping you to feel better? This may be an indicator that reaching out to a mental health professional could be helpful to help you through your process. Determining your needs for care currently is helpful in working through your feelings while you grieve.
This article was contributed by:
Amanda is a Certified Pet Loss Grief therapist and is now seeing adult women & LGBTQ+ members ages 18 and up in person & virtually in the state of Maryland.
If you’d like to book with Amanda, you can reach her by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org, call her directly at 301-690-0779 ext. 711, or self-schedule an appointment now by clicking here.