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Pet Loss, Grief & the Holidays

pet loss support Dec 12, 2020

Kathryn Jennings, CPFE, CPLP, Pet Hospice Support Services 

The upcoming holidays traditionally focus on celebrating however, this year many of us may be faced anticipating the loss of a cherished pet or be mourning one we’ve had to say goodbye to. Plus, the isolation brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic may all intensify pet families grief this year. 

The overwhelming thought of this being your last holidays with your beloved pet or the lack of the physical presence of your beloved pet (bereavement) can be devastating for many pet parents.  The relationship with a beloved pet is significant therefore the pain of grief associated with anticipating a loss or certainly after a loss can be quite difficult during holiday festivities for the pet parents.  

Many in your family or social circle may want to disenfranchise your grief or tell you it’s time for you to moving on and be happy again.  But there is no need to think of your grief as not acceptable.  It is normal and to be expected.  Something as simple as not being able to purchase a gift for the pet we’ve lost or opening a decoration box only to find your pet’s stocking can bring about mourning and/or a grief burst. 

If you are having trouble enjoying the holiday’s due to a loss of a pet keep the following in mind.   

  • First and foremost, you need to give yourself empathy for your pain. Your loss matters and your pain is deep.  Your world has changed even if the rest of the world hasn’t.   
  • Giving yourself the time and space needed to heal, in your own way is significant. Grief has no timetable. Allowing time for self-care is of the upmost importance during this time.  Take a long hot bath or walk in the park, write in a journal, create a memorial for your pet or volunteering in your community are all ways to take a break from your grief.   
  • If you’re feeling angry or sad even with all the decorations and festivities around you, it’s ok.  You are grieving.  You don’t have to try and cover up your grief.  Pretending that our feelings don’t matter isn’t the solution.   
  • Holiday traditions can bring the most feelings of loss: hanging stockings, family get together and the alike.  At this time perhaps consider how you can integrate your pet’s memory into new rituals. Perhaps lighting a candle or saying a few words with loved ones before a family meal may bring comfort. 
  • It’s important to consider the mixed emotions you may experience at this time.  You may be counting your blessings and reflecting upon the many gifts we've received from the time with you had with beloved pet on earth and experiencing the pain of grief at the same time. It’s natural to feel intense sorrow and experience the joy of the season in tandem. Feeling conflicted at this time is to be expected 

The holidays can without a doubt intensify loneliness, sadness or cause you to have “grief bursts when you thought your grief was behind you.  Just remember to reach out for support from those who not just sympathize but truly empathize with your loss.  Finding those who understand will help give you the opportunity to mourn your loss and continue on your path to healing.   

Grief is the hardest work we’ll ever do. It becomes easier when another lends a hand.  When we feel understood, when our pain is acknowledged, we feel less devastated and more supported.  

You don’t have to grieve all alone.  Join our Pet Hospice Community Facebook group to be connected to our pet loss counsellor as well as others walking a similar road. 

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