Christmas carols, laughter, wrapping presents, gatherings of friends and family, sneaking extra treats (healthy!) for your dog or cat. Pulling out their Christmas stockings and hanging them with the rests of the family’s. All this what makes Christmas wonderful. If you are right there with them. But, if you have lost your pet recently (or a while ago, its ok, healing can take some time) you might feel like an outsider. A smile may be on your face, but there may be a sadness in your heart at the same time. A sort of duality where you are happy and grieving simultaneously. And it can feel weird, off, uncomfortable. That is ok. It is ok to feel both joy and sadness at the same time. Our pets are generally our constant companions, and we want them to be part of the celebration of the season.
But sometimes we don’t get too. Sometimes grief is going to have to replace that joy. We don’t get to choose when, how and why. And that can be devastating. Right when everyone is joyfully getting excited about gathering and celebrations. How awful. But it is the way things happen sometimes. I’m here to tell you that you can do this! You can survive the holiday season with that hole in your heart, I promise. Here is a list of 10 things which will help you get through this season, even joyfully.Be Honest. First and foremost, please don’t swallow your grief. Its ok to let people that you are in mourning. They will understand, they have all been there. Grief doesn’t work on a perfect timeline and we all know this. You don’t need to push it away for nowFind a Support Person. Or two. Or three. Find those people who understand what it is like to lose your dog or cat and allow them to give you that safe space when you need it.
1. Be Honest. First and foremost, please don’t swallow your grief. Its ok to let people that you are in mourning. They will understand, they have all been there. Grief doesn’t work on a perfect timeline and we all know this. You don’t need to push it away for now.
2. Find a Support Person. Or two. Or three. Find those people who understand what it is like to lose your dog or cat and allow them to give you that safe space when you need it.
3. Don’t belittle your loss. “Its just a dog, I should buck up!” “Its just a cat, I shouldn’t be so weak!” Not true! If you stop to think about it, a pet is sometimes with us even more than a spouse or child. When you are home, they were always somewhere in your peripheral vision. That is more of a constant than a family member if you think about it.
4. Create a holiday pet memorial. Don’t feel you can’t have the heart and spirit of your pet with you during the holidays. You can create a simple holiday memorial with a photo, candle, and some holiday ornaments. Place it above the stockings on the mantle. You will be able to see them and feel they are part of the celebration in spirit. Seeing a photo may very well bring up loss and sadness, but there will be moments where, as the night goes by, you will glance over at the photo and you will feel that love. And that will be a special moment you feel deep in your heart.
5. Take time for yourself! Oh, this is important! The constant music, conversation, joy will be too much at times. Plan some quiet time for yourself. Even if you need to just leave the dinner table and sit quietly in a back room, away from company and family.
6. Be gentle with yourself. Loss is hard. We tend to overdo during the holidays. All that rushing, so many presents to wrap, it can overwhelm. You just lost a beloved member of your family, it’s ok if you can’t do and be everything for everyone. Again, be ok with asking for help, spreading the responsibilites so that you have some time to regroup and get your balance back. The holidays are for you to enjoy as well, not just to make sure other people are happy.
7. Ask your children for input. They can be brilliant and insightful in times like these. They are mourning as well, and coming together to talk about what happened can be very helpful. Maybe have them paint an ornament with your dog or cat’s image or name. You can all hang it on the tree together.
8. Pay it forward. I have to mute the television whenever that heartbreaking commercial comes on, the one with the dogs out in the cold. I cry even as I write this. But its true. And how heartwarming and healing would it be to help? If you are not ready to donate your pet’s items, maybe just donate some money in your cat or dog’s name? Maybe take the family to give some love to the pets in the pound? Helping an animal in need can give your heart a place to go. It is very healing.
9. Write. And keep writing. A journal is a great place to let it all out. Just let it pour. If you don’t have a journal, it doesn’t matter. Any piece of paper will do. It is all about getting it all out. All your thoughts, grief, sadness. You can even write a thank you letter to your pet. How to write a poem for your pet.
10. Just say no. Boundaries are out friend. If you are overwhelmed, don’t feel up to it, or just don’t want to do something. It. Is. Ok. “No” is one of the healthiest gifts you can give yourself. You have my permission to use it freely.
We all grieve in our own way. There is no right or wrong. The loss of a pet is actually a big deal. If you have recent loss, I am so very sorry. Each and every pet is the most wonderful and best boy or girl. They bring us humor, company, love, protection. Just because it is the holidays, we still need to grieve our loss. However you need to mourn the loss of your cat, dog, horse, bird, goldfish is the right way.
Again, I am so very sorry you are going through this. I wish you strength, love, and hopefully some moments of joy this holiday season,