Many people do not understand the depth of loss that occurs when a pet dies. Because support may not come to you naturally, you may want to consider more proactive approaches to taking care of yourself. While we first think of emotions when it comes to grieving, a more holistic approach can be helpful. Whether your pet has just died or it has been a while, try to take care of yourself emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. You took loving care of your pet. Now honor your pet by taking care of yourself.
- Allow yourself to cry. The tears can help wash away your pain and prepare the path of healing.
- Take time for yourself, whether a “mental health” or bereavement day off of work or quiet time from your routine at home.
- Share your news and sadness with supportive people. Calls or emails about your loss help others to know about this major event and can naturally bring support. Know that not everyone will understand your grief for your beloved animal companion, but the ones who do will make the sharing worthwhile.
- Call a pet bereavement counselor or join a pet loss support group. You can do this by going online to petloss.net or aplb.org. Both have excellent information to help with healing.
- Listen to special music, take a bubble bath, or treat yourself to a special food.
- Write, paint, dance, knit or do woodworking – any creative, constructive activity that can help you cope or bring some joy back into your life.
- Increase your understanding of pet loss by going online to the websites previously mentioned or going to a local bookstore for pet loss support.
- Read poems and writings about pet loss to help you know that grief is universal.
- Use website resources to gain a sense of understanding and community.
- Use affirmations to reframe any guilt you may have regarding the loss.
- Plan changes to your past routine so that you are not always reminded of your loss.
- Though a small food treat can be a coping mechanism, try to make healthy choices and not overindulge.
- Try to get enough sleep, though your sleep may be disrupted for a time after the loss.
- Although it is fine to take some time to bury your sorrows in bed, exercise can help you feel better.
- Be careful not to mask the pain with alcohol or drugs. This can delay or derail the grieving process. If you find yourself engaging in excessive use of substances, you may need professional help.
- Regardless of your beliefs, tap into a source of comfort in a way that aids your healing, be it religious writings, philosophical readings or communing with nature.
- Attend worship services or spiritual meetings which speak to you.
It is important to take care of yourself during this difficult time of loss. Use whatever method works for you and remember that it takes time to heal.