It has been a year since my family lost the goodest girl, Nuka, and I know I still struggle with coping with loss. Of course, social media doesn’t let you forget either (which can be a blessing and a curse), but this year it brought back a lot of big emotions. This got me to thinking…how are you coping with pet loss?
This will probably be a little shorter of a blog post, because, I am writing it almost as a question to myself as well as to you. Are you still working through your grief? Do you have a support system or people close to you that can help you through this time? How are you remembering your fur baby?
Does Time Heal All Wounds When Coping with Pet Loss?
The old adage “Time heals all wounds” seems to be out of place when speaking of loss. When you lose a pet, the grief can be so strong that it feels like it overpowers every other emotion.
Over time, grief begins to wane; however, I don’t believe it ever goes away. Certain memories or even small movements can trigger the grief all over again.
The Closet Door
As an example, this past week, my husband shut our bedroom closet door and I immediately thought of how Nuka always slept in our closet…so I had to open the closet door for her, even though she is no longer with us. This memory, as small as it seems, caused a restless night, full of tears.
My husband even will see a movement in the backyard and think Nuka is running and playing. It takes a moment to remember she has been gone for a year.
Scars On Our Heart
All in all, time doesn’t heal our wounds in their entirety; however, it leaves a scar on our hearts. It shows us that we did love with all of our being and the pets that have passed over the rainbow bridge have left a definite impact on our lives.
At first, scars are red, angry, and they hurt! You are more likely to scratch at them and open up the wound, and grief overflows. Over time, the scar gets less angry, painful, and grief doesn’t come as often. When the scar heals, you still have a reminder of the loss, and you may grieve on occasion; however, the pain is not as it once was.
I know this sounds like a silly question…but think about it. Do you have people who you can talk to while going through the grieving process? Even if it is one person, that can be the difference between coping with your loss and remaining in a dark place.
Who Do I Talk To?
Ok, Kelly, seriously…do you think I would talk to someone I don’t trust? Maybe…but I think it is something to think about. Many of us have family members who will support us through our grieving process, but sometimes that may not be enough.
You have a few options:
1. A Professional Counselor/Therapist: They are trained / qualified to work with you through your grieving process. They will be able to provide ideas on how you can get through this difficult time in your life… Pets have become such an integral part of our lives that the therapist will have a range of tools to help you through.
2. Support Groups: If you are not as interested in talking 1×1, group therapy is always an option. You should be able to research groups in your area or reach out to your local veterinarian or rescue shelter and they can direct you to a group that will work for you.
3. An Online Forum/Social Media Group: I have seen a number of these popping up on Facebook and Instagram, and I am sure there are other platforms that help people who are coping with pet loss. The one thing I would caution is that these are not necessarily moderated by professionals, but are just normal people like us.
I think one of the most important aspects to coping with pet loss is to talk to somebody…to have a support system that will help you and encourage you on your grief journey.
During the grieving process, it also helps to find a way to memorialize your pet. It will keep the good memories alive and help you remember your pet when they were in good health.
Here are a few ideas on how to memorialize your pet:
1. Creative Writing: One of the things I have found to help is writing about my pets…I started this blog because I wanted to write about Roc and Aprilia who passed away, and in turn, I have been able to write articles on grief as well as how to keep pets healthy for a longer life. Even if you don’t want to write a blog, take time to create a story of your pet.
2. Art: I have seen a number of artists who create beautiful portraits and memorials for family pets. If you have an artistic bend, creating art to remember your pet may help memorialize your own loved one.
3. Create a memorial garden: I think this is a beautiful idea to where you can create a specific area in your garden or create a garden to memorialize your pet. You can put a wind chime or a memorial stone in one of your pet’s favorite outdoor areas. If you are in an apartment or condominium, maybe adding a little herb garden in the window may work best.
4. Tattoos: This idea is one that I have done and will do again. If you don’t shy away from needles, a tattoo is a great permanent remembrance for your pet. I had Nuka’s paw print tattooed above my heart. There are so many ideas online, but I would trust a reputable tattoo artist to help you design something specific for you and your pet.
5. Plan a Memorial Service: Invite friends and family to a small service to remember your pet. You can include a photo album / slideshow of your pet, and have friends/family share their memories. You can even bury your pet or spread ashes to help with the closure.
6. Volunteer at a Shelter in Their Memory: This idea may not happen right away based on how you deal with grief and how long it takes you to process each stage of grief. When you are ready, take time to research some local shelters to see which one you would prefer to volunteer with. If you are uncomfortable volunteering or don’t have time (or are afraid that you want to take all the pets home!), many rescues accept donations in memory of your pet or a loved one.
The biggest take-away I have when it comes to coping with pet loss is that it takes time. And…the time it takes is different for everyone, so be gracious to yourself.
There are 5 stages of grief we all go through. Take your time with each stage; don’t rush yourself through the process.
Also, don’t let others rush you through the process either. Surround yourself with people who will support you and love you regardless of where you are.
Pets have become an integral part of our families. When one passes over the rainbow bridge, the grief can be just as difficult as it is when we lose a human family member. This means we coping with pet loss is important to our health and well-being.
Processing grief may take time, but as long as you can talk to someone about what you are dealing with and/or you can remember your pet in a positive way, you will get through this hard time.
Let me know if you have a specific way to cope with the loss of a pet. Are there any gift or memorial items you have purchased to remember your pet?