Suggestions to help your grieving process

Moving through transition is a process. There are generally three steps in this process.

1. Dealing with the ending.

2. The journeying through changes.

3. Integrating the loss and finding new beginnings.   The process is not always straightforward from one step to the other, but successful transition will involve working through all three phases. This journey involves understanding and acceptance and is necessary to heal.

Below you will find some suggestions to consider when in grieving:

  • Donít judge yourself and be kind to yourself--grieving is an intensely personal process so take it at your own pace. 
  • Ritual is important when you experience loss. Consider planning a funeral/burial/cremation or a ďcelebration of lifeĒ service for your pet. You may keep this personal or invite those whom you know had a special relationship with your pet to be involved. Even small steps such as posting photoís and comments on Facebook or sending a note to others letting them know about your loss can be helpful during transition.
  • Allow yourself to feel the pain of loss in a safe environment. Give yourself permission to cry, to feel pain and do not try to suppress those intense feelings so you can heal and move forward.
  • Talk about your loss to those you trust who will understand-it helps the healing process.
  • Try to minimize contact with those you know will not understand your loss and may minimize your grieving.  They may have never experienced that very special relationship with an animal companion.
  • If you are a writer, write a letter or a tribute to your pet. Put the letter in an envelope and open it one day when you are ready or share it widely with others who may appreciate it. Do what feels right to help you move on.
  • If you are a reader, there are many books on pet loss that can offer support when grieving. See the Resources link.
  • If you are creative, make a scrapbook, video or a special memorial place for your pet.
  • Take good care of yourself.  Start your day with breakfast. If you do not have much appetite try a morning smoothie and a glass of water. Eat small meals 4-5 times a day and incorporate some physical activity into your daily schedule to support your sleep and overall well-being. If you eat when you feel loss replace eating with other activities. Try not to eat alone.

Grief is a very individual journey so it is hard to predict how long your mourning will last. You and your pet have created a very special daily routine. Changing or modifying this routine that you shared with your pet may help your healing. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • You may feel like removing some of the physical reminders and associations left behind by your deceased pet such as a leash, bed or food bowl that may no longer be in use. You may want to  put them in a new location so they do not spark reminders too frequently
  • Walking is one of the best forms of exercise--you can do it anytime and does not cost anything. Take your daily walks at a different time and in a different area than you walked with your pet for the first few days. When you are ready, revisit the places you went with your pet and connect to the pet owners you used to know.
  • If you live alone, try to change your patterns and routines slightly. Try to be with others more often, and for some time, stay away from sad and unhappy people.
  • Watch different television programs, and listen to other radio stations and/or different music some of the time.
  • Avoid certain types of movies that may be upsetting, and actively seek out others that are entertaining. If possible enjoy them with someone who is supportive of what you are going through.
  • Although you may feel some initial resistance, arrange to visit or go out more frequently or even on regular basis. You can still take memories with you and share them, if you choose.
  • Meet with other pet owners and talk about what you are going through.
  • Attend pet bereavement support group sessions. They are a wonderful sharing and healing experience.
  • If you find you are struggling with coping on your own, look for a pet bereavement therapist to obtain some individual support.

Adapted From:

Canadian Centre for Pet Loss and Bereavement

Caplan S. and Lang G. Grief Courageous Journey. New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 1995

Nieberg, H.A. and A. Fischer. Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children. Harper and Row, 1982.

Wallace Sife, The Loss of a Pet. Howell Book House, New York, 1998.