Experts believe that the death of a companion animal can be just as painful as losing a human family member. While grieving is a highly personal experience and therefore different for everyone, there are certain fundamental self-care strategies that we can all use to help us through these difficult times. Whether you are currently grieving the loss of a pet or are preparing ahead for the inevitable, here are some helpful ways to nurture yourself as you navigate the grief experience.
1. Give yourself time.
Grieving the loss of a pet who was a part of the family isn’t something that you can necessarily put a timeline on. You should never feel as though you need to rush through – or worse – ignore the emotions you’re experiencing. Allow yourself time to feel and work through those emotions. And as you do, try to reflect on the positive memories you shared. Eventually, this will help you transition from pain to gratitude.
2. Take care of your basic needs.
The acute or immediate stage of grief is often hallmarked by loss of appetite, inability to sleep and a feeling of hopelessness. Understand, though, that grieving the loss of a pet takes a lot of hard work. To get through it, you’ll need to fuel your body with nutrients and proper rest. Try your best to continue eating, even if food has temporarily lost its appeal. If you’re battling sleeplessness, incorporating meditation or other relaxation practices might help.
3. Maintain your routines as much as possible.
Losing a loved one, whether two-legged or four, can make it feel like your life is spinning out of control. In particular, grieving the loss of a pet can be compounded when an animal who was such a big part of many of your daily routines is suddenly gone. As difficult as it may be, adhering to some sense of normalcy as much as possible can do wonders for pulling you through the grief process. If you have children or other pets, remember, they’re also experiencing the loss and can benefit from maintaining a normal routine.
4. Memorialize the life of your pet.
Saying goodbye to a furry family member is never easy. The hole they leave our lives and our hearts can never truly be refilled. But finding a way to memorialize and honor them can make grieving the loss of a pet a little bit easier. There are plenty of ways to commemorate a beloved pet’s life, whether it’s creating a scrapbook, commissioning a piece of memorial art, planting a tree or making a donation in their name. Give it some thought and then do whatever feels right to you.
5. Reach out for help.
Although grief is a unique experience for each individual, most of us have been through the process at least once. This mutual experience can be a powerful form of support during a difficult time of loss. If you’re struggling to deal with your emotions on your own, reach out to someone you trust, such as a close friend or family member. If you don’t have anyone in your inner circle who can serve as a shoulder to cry on, a pet loss support hotline can provide live grief counseling. Remember – you are never alone and you will get through this.