Losing a beloved pet is devastating. It’s a big deal, not a small deal as society tends to view it. When this happens, we are dealing with the heavy emotion of grief. It’s a difficult emotion to feel, and some may say the most vulnerable of all the emotions. I plan to dedicate a few posts on the topic of grief, including the stages and how to navigate through them. Today, we will focus on easy, accessible coping mechanisms you can do if you lose a pet.
First off, it’s important to feel what you are experiencing and to not avoid those feelings. Learn more here on why you should not avoid your feelings when you are grieving. We, as humans, develop coping mechanisms, in various ways, to deal with stress, trauma, loss, and to manage the painful emotions we are feeling. Coping mechanisms can be healthy and they can also be unhealthy. Let’s look at several healthy options to help you feel better…
1) Create a free online memorial for your pet. This can be a therapeutic way to show your love to your pet. You can share it with friends and family and view it anytime you wish to remember your pet.
I created Petminni for this purpose. It helped me to grieve the loss of Chilly, and my friends who have also created memorials for their pets found it to be therapeutic and a beautiful way to honor their pet.
2) Write a letter to your pet. This sounds silly, but it’s extremely therapeutic (similar to journaling). The physical action of writing down your thoughts and dedicating those words to your beloved pet is a way of releasing and expressing emotions you are having a hard time to manage. You can write a letter, then place it in a safe spot that you can revisit anytime. Some people place it next to their pet’s toys, or their urn, or the physical memorial they created in their homes.
In the letter, tell your pet how much you love and miss him/her. Tell them what they meant to you, and thank them for being in your life.
3) Dedicate something in your pet’s name. Donations are a popular way to honor your pet’s memory. I’ve heard of people planting a tree in honor of their pet. And some dedicated events, statues, and other items in the name of their pets. It also can be something private, not public. For example, Sumit and I picked certain places in Boston that remind us of Chilly. No one knows about it, except us. When we visit those places, we think of him. Right now it brings a mix of happy and sad emotions, as I’m still in the grieving process. But it helps.
4) Get items to remind you of your pet. Such as paw prints, or trinkets, etc. My friend at Rainbow Bridge Prism makes gift sets with the Rainbow Bridge poem and a prism that shines a rainbow reflection. Pick an item you know you will keep around, and have it visible, so you have a reminder of your pet. When you buy something then put it away or ignore it, it negates the meaning and purpose of the item. However, if it’s too hard to cope with at the time, then put it away and revisit when you feel strong enough to look at the item to remember your pet.
5) Practice self-care. Take care of yourself during this time. Try to take it easy. Do not overwhelm yourself as you are already experiencing a hard time. The stress of losing a pet takes up a lot of energy. Find something that brings you joy and do it. Spend time with people who make you feel loved and bring a smile to your face. Get plenty of rest. And move your body to release endorphins to boost your mood.
6) Hold a ceremony for your pet. This should be more common since pets are family. I wanted to do this for Chilly, but the COVID-19 pandemic began with the quarantine rules, so no one could come to his memorial service. I have talked to others who have done this for their pets. My friends in the Vancouver area started a company called WAKE, to help those who wish to prepare a ceremonial service for their beloved pet. Funerals, memorials, and ceremonies are beautiful ways to express your love to the ones we have lost. And pets are no different, so do not be afraid to try this option. It’s also very therapeutic.
7) Keep a few items around your house such as some of your pet’s favorite toys or clothing. I do not recommend throwing everything away. It’s a great idea to donate items, but saving a few items of your beloved pet can help you remember happy memories you two shared together.
If you found this blog helpful, please share it with anyone who may be struggling with the loss of their pet.