There are so many strategies that can help as you move through the grief of losing a pet. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
Writing about what you are feeling, writing a letter to your pet (or many letters), imagining what your pet would say if they could write a letter to you, using a pet loss journal as a guide.
2. Creating memorials:
Creating a spot where you can honor your pet and their memory. This may be a place (or multiple places) in your home, or may be a larger memorial event with friends and family.
3. Honoring the changes in your daily routines:
One of the hardest things is how we feel their absence in so many little ways throughout the day. Finding ways to name and honor this can help. This could be something such as: putting a picture of your cat in the place on your dresser where she sat every morning as you got ready, saying out loud to your dog’s picture what you would say every time you left for the day, telling them how much you miss them every time you walk in the door now that they are not there anymore.
4. Remembering the good times:
Sometimes we are left with the last images of their decline and death. It can help to try to soften those last images with other memories of their (full and wonderful!) life. This can be painful too, so take care of your heart and trust your pacing. Looking through old pictures and videos and remembering and sharing stories, can be a way to both honor their memory and remind you of all you hold in your heart of them.
5. Crying, a lot:
I think it is worth noting because it can really surprise people and even worry them! I often hear people say how they’ve never before cried this hard, this much, this wailing-like. Find soft places to curl up when the tears come, rehydrate yourself (truly), and know that you are not alone in the buckets of tears that flow.
6. Give yourself a break:
The “dual process model” talks about how moving through grieving is both about moving into the pain (loss-oriented) and also stepping out of it at times (restoration-oriented). It is a lot of emotional, mental, and physical work to be grieving. And sometimes we need a break – some respite – so we can go back into it. These breaks are actually helping us as well. I hear people often describe this as finding a “distraction” – it may be going to work, watching a mindless TV show, or anything that takes your mind away even for a moment or two. It’s not denying the pain, that will still be there and pop back up. It’s almost like finding ways to come back up for air and into daily life, before you dive back down into the heartache.
Kristin Buller is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a Certificate in Veterinary Social Work. Kristin lives in Chicago with her husband and their dog, Ruby. For more information on Kristin, visit www.kristinbuller.com.