Grief Support Through the Holidays  

Grief Resources Through the Holidays.

Our pets are more than “just a dog” or “just a cat.” They are beloved members of our family. They bring joy and companionship that is not easily matched. It’s natural to feel grief and sadness when a family member passes. The same is true when our pets leave us. 

The pain of loss can often feel overwhelming and bring about many emotions. While it may be difficult for others to understand, it is normal to grieve the loss of animal companions. And the holiday season can make dealing with the loss of your beloved pet even more difficult.  

Dealing with the loss of a pet is an inevitable part of pet ownership; however, there are healthy ways to learn to cope and move on, while continuing to cherish your memories.  

Allow yourself to grieve 

The holiday season may bring unique emotional challenges to your grieving process. It is important to allow yourself to grieve and for your family and friends to know that you are grieving. You might be surrounded by people trying to cheer you up, especially those who have not gone through a loss of this kind. It is important to be true to your feelings rather than try to please others. Pretending to be happy does not help you properly grieve and allow you to move on.  

Help your child cope

While it’s impossible to shelter kids from the loss of a pet, you can help them cope with it. Because a pet’s death might be their first time losing a loved one, the grieving process can help kids learn how to cope with other losses throughout life.  

Everyone responds differently and in different phases, so it’s important to let your child know that there’s no right or wrong way to heal. Like anyone dealing with a loss, kids usually feel a variety of emotions besides sadness after the death of a pet. Remind them that they may feel sad, angry, guilty, and confused, but that you can work through these emotions together. 

Seek support

It can be a difficult journey to go through the grief process alone or with someone who may not grieve a pet’s loss in the same way you do. Talking to friends, family members, or a counselor can help process your feelings of loss. Support groups for pet owners who have experienced loss may also provide a safe space to share and receive comfort. 

Memorialize your pet

Many times, our pets are our first and longest-lasting friends and losing them can be heartbreaking. While there is nothing that can be done to take away that pain and sense of loss, you can lessen it by choosing to find joy in your memories.  

By memorializing your pet, you can celebrate the life that you shared, which can ultimately help you move on. You might consider a ceremony in honor of your pet, surrounding yourself with people who support you can be helpful. You may also consider other ways to memorialize your pet that last longer than a brief ceremony, to help you always remember your time together. 

Take care of yourself

The basics of self-care–sleep, nutrition, exercise– are critical to emotional and physical well-being. Grieving requires extra energy, and holidays can be emotionally and physically draining. Getting through the holidays requires some extra self-nurturing. 

Consider getting another pet

While getting another pet may not be right for everyone, some people find comfort in adopting another animal in need. It is important to take the time to grieve and heal before making this decision. While it may be tempting to adopt another pet during the holidays, it is important to remember that you will never be able to duplicate the relationship with your pet that passed away. How will you know when you are ready for a new pet? When you feel ready to nurture a new relationship – not recreate the old one.   

The first holiday season after a pet dies is usually the most difficult. Coping with pet loss is a day-by-day – and sometimes hour-by-hour process – so be compassionate and kind to yourself. The loss of a pet is a significant event, and the grief experience is different for everyone. Visit our Pet Loss Resources page for additional support. 

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