You may be grieving the loss of an animal companion, which could have been days, weeks, or even years ago. We must remember to take care of ourselves in this fragile state. Stress during grief is taxing on the body physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Learning to care for yourself after a loss is a skill, often a really hard one to master, especially when the grief is overwhelming. Here are some tips to continue to care for yourself following the death of your companion:
This involves both acknowledging and expressing your pain and grief.
- Be kind to yourself. Remember that you are in a fragile, vulnerable emotional state of mind. You deserve to be treated well. Be with people who are nurturing to you, do things for yourself that you enjoy and feel good about, and take care to pamper yourself.
- Reach out. It’s hard to communicate our needs to our loved ones as it is, but in times of grief, we might not know what we need…but others won’t know what we need either if we don’t tell them. Try to communicate to family and friends how they can support you.
- Laugh. This one is a hard one. How can I possibly laugh if I’m feeling this terrible? you may be thinking. Remembering their silly ways- getting into the trash, pouncing on a treat, the particular noises they would make- are ways to honor the good moments from your shared lives.
- Listen to yourself. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, take a time out. If you need to talk, find someone who knew your pet and will engage you about their life. If you need to cry, let yourself cry. The key to this self-care element is to take each emotion at face value and honor it.
- Take a break. If it feels right to you, take time off from work, or take a break from your routine by allowing yourself to grieve. Not all people feel as if taking a break from work or their routine is healing, as some find strength in the distraction. Be sure to monitor how much or how little you are working, and check in about what feels best in your time of grieving.
Grief can deplete your energy; physical care can keep your body healthy.
- Maintain your routine. Grief can be disruptive. It can paralyze us or force us into a different routine. Maintaining a healthy diet, normal sleep schedule, and getting exercise can help get things back on track, and improve the way we feel.
- Avoid using alcohol or drugs. If you find yourself using drugs or drinking as a means of “feeling better,” check in with yourself about why you are using: to avoid the pain you may be experiencing? To forget? Try to substitute negative habits with healthy ones.
If spirituality resonates with you, tune in with your religious/spiritual/philosophical beliefs on life.
- Write down your existential thoughts. Ponder your philosophy of an afterlife for animals and talk with others who can support your beliefs.
- Try giving back. Sometimes, doing something kind for someone else (animals included!) can feel good. Altruism can help honor a beautiful life.
- Light a candle in memory of your companion. This can help memorialize their life and keep their spirit alive.
Grief can harm our mental functioning, concentration, and attention span. Taking care of your cognitive needs is validating to help make sense of your loss.
- Join a group. We have a support group for pet loss weekly, and this may help you feel more connected with your grief and more supported after talking with others who are grieving. Hawaiian Humane Society also offers monthly support groups – call 356-2222 to attend.
- Read a book about grief. We have many suggested titles that help make sense of grief, an often confusing experience. Reading other people’s journey helps validate our own.
- Don’t set a timetable. Grief has no clock by which you will magically feel better. Everyone deals with grief differently and everyone’s grief is non-comparable. You will always miss and love your pet. The feelings will not always be as intense or devastating as they are right now, though. They may dull over time while your love remains strong.
Remember, you are not alone! The Arms of Aloha Support Team is here to help. You can call us to talk with a specialist at: 808-435-3006, Ext 7, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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