After the passing of a loved pet, it can feel like to you’ll stay locked in a place of grief forever. It can be hard to imagine a time when the pain doesn’t consume you. It can also be hard to focus on what your friend gave you when all you can think about is what you have lost.
Thinking about ways we can come through or, perhaps more accurately, live more harmoniously with our grief, the five suggestions below stood out as ways to honour our loved ones.
1.We can honour our memories by living a happy, if different, life
As we’ve said in numerous articles, one of the things that makes animals so special is their capacity for unconditional love and their ability to live in the moment.
Your lost companion would not want you to be unhappy. You gave them a good life, whatever the length of time you had together, and they would want the same for you.
Yes, life will never be the same. It will be different but different can still be happy.
Caring for a pet is a constant reminder that life is too short, so honour the memories you shared by promising to make more happy memories in the future.
2. Grief teaches us to be more compassionate to others
As a vet, compassion has always been important to me but it was when my rescue cat Ralph died that I really connected with the unheard community of people just like me who were suffering the immeasurable loss of a pet. That special cat inspired me to reach out to others and, in doing so, he truly lives on.
A kind word to someone else who is grieving, a smile, a hug, a gentle message of support – these small kindnesses can turn grief into a ripple of goodness that’s felt for years to come.
3. In turn, we can support others more
Following on from point 2, the experience of grief can encourage us to support others more. Within The Ralph Site Facebook group I’m always touched by the number of people who choose to ‘payback’ the support they received at their time of loss by offering the same to new members.
I always think of the animals represented by each person and how the existence of those animals has inspired so much that’s good.
4. We can risk loving a pet even though it will mean another loss
This can be a big, daunting issue for bereaved pet carers – do you have it in you to love another pet knowing you will probably outlive them and have to go through all this grief again?
Some people choose a new companion straight away, some never have a pet again; many fall somewhere in the middle. There is no right or wrong, only what’s right for you.
Personally, I think one of the greatest ways we can honour a pet we’ve lost is to open our hearts to a new companion. It won’t push your old friend out – I find the heart has a way of growing instead.
5. We can grow as a person
There’s a beautiful saying that, “Grief never ends… but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay”. And like many of the life-changing journeys we experience, I think grief gives us an opportunity to grow as a person.
If we can learn to be kinder, more compassionate, more able to love with the risk of loss, then we can grow in so many essential ways. And, above all, that growth is a tribute to the ones we have lost but will always love.
If you’re struggling with any aspect of pet loss right now, The Ralph Site Facebook group offers a community of people who ‘get it’ and can offer a safe space to talk about your feelings. You can also find details of pet bereavement services on the main Ralph Site.
Until next time,
Shailen and The Ralph Site
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support