Here are some suggestions of healthy ways to cope with the pain of losing your pet
Nothing can prepare you for losing a beloved family member. When that family member is your pet, though, there is a unique set of painful and difficult emotions you must deal with. According to researchers from the University of Hawaii, following the death of their pet, about 30% of people experience grief that lasts at least six months, while 12% experience severe grief that results in major life disruption.
Although grieving is a highly individual experience, there are healthy ways to cope with the pain. Here are some suggestions:
1. Consider a ceremony. Many people find great comfort in gathering with friends and family to remember their cherished pet, either with a ceremony before or during euthanasia, or after the pet has passed. “It’s a time for them to say goodbye and also celebrate the pet’s life. The ceremonies can be gut-wrenching, but also very cathartic” says Lauren Lagoni, a pioneer in grief support programs for pet owners.
2. Look after yourself. The stress of losing a pet can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to release endorphins and help boost your mood.
3. Spend time in nature. According to Dolan-Del Vecchio, a family therapist and author of The Pet Loss Companion: Healing Advice From Family Therapists Who Lead Pet Loss Groups, “the sights, sounds, and smells of nature connect us to eternal, circular stories of life and death in ways that go beyond our usual thoughts and feelings, and this experience brings solace to many people.”
4. Take your time. It is important to go at your own pace. Deal with your grief as long as you need to, and don’t feel rushed to “get over” your sorrow. “Everyone’s grief is an individual process,” Lagoni says. “We all find comfort in different things. If there are muddy foot prints on the back window and fur on the floor, and you’re not ready to give them up yet, then leave them right there.”
5. Lean on the right friends. Surround yourself with the select people who affirm and understand the significance of your pet in your life and support you. Getting involved in a pet loss support group or visiting a grief counselor can also help you work through your emotions.
6. Be creative. “Whether you lean toward writing, scrapbooking, ceramics, photography or making collages, creative projects may contribute to healing”, says Del Vecchio.
Whatever the circumstances of your loss, remember that grief is personal to you, so you shouldn’t be ashamed about how you feel, or believe that it’s somehow not appropriate to grieve for an animal friend.
Latin American Post | Luisa Fernanda Báez
Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda