In recent times, there have been a number of conversations in The Ralph Site Pet Loss Support Group about how the coronavirus and the need for physical distancing and isolation are making pet loss grief even harder to deal with. These worries are likely to increase while the UK and other parts of the world are in lockdown.
As you know, grief is isolating even in normal circumstances but it may be even more so now without hugs and physical reassurance from anyone outside of your immediate household. Naturally, this is even more distressing if you live alone.
If you’re affected in any way, the first thing to know is that we’re here for you. In this article, we’re going to explore ways that you can still access support and comfort, despite being physically distanced from your usual network of friends and family.
1. Reach out for online support
Grief counsellors often recommend that mourners reach out for support, especially from face-to-face support groups. During this current coronavirus pandemic, physical group gatherings are no longer advisable. In fact, if you live in a part of the world that is in lockdown, all such groups will be closed for the foreseeable future.
Thankfully, virtual support groups are still available. The Ralph Site Pet Loss Support Group on Facebook is one such group, a community of bereaved pet carers who listen to and support one another at all times. Pet bereavement helpline services are still available – the Blue Cross helpline is a good starting point for phone and email support.
2. Stay connected
Neither physical distancing nor self-isolation mean that you have to be socially disengaged. Our relationships are more important than ever in these uncertain times, so pick up the phone, send an email or even write a letter to your loved ones.
In some ways, these methods of communication carve out the space to talk one-to-one in a way that isn’t always possible during our usually busy lives.
3. Practice self-care
Mental health organisations are understandably warning that physical distancing and isolation during the coronavirus outbreak is likely to have an impact on many people’s mental health.
It’s incredibly important that you find ways to practice self-care, more so because you are grieving and may already feel fragile.
Self-care looks different to everyone and is about more than just having a relaxing bath or reading a book. It’s essentially anything you do to refuel and protect your physical, mental and emotional health.
This might be staying in touch with your friends and family, even if you can’t see them, or making a meal plan to ensure that you eat as healthily as possible. It could be limiting the amount of news you watch or making sure that you exercise at least once a day.
4. Find moments of joy
It can be tough to find moments of joy in life when you’re grieving but even small moments each day can make physical distancing easier to manage.
Is there anything that has happened today that made you smile?
It might have been birds singing in the garden or the sun shining through your window. Perhaps it was listening to Patrick Stewart reading a daily sonnet on social media or using the enforced time at home to do a virtual tour of one of the world’s famous museums. Whatever you find joyful, now is the time to tap into it. And please don’t feel guilty for doing so – your pet wouldn’t want you to be unhappy.
5. Talk to your pet
One of the most difficult things about physical distancing is knowing that it would have been easier with your pet by your side. Whatever species, they would have been a constant and calming companion during these uncertain times.
Even though your pet isn’t physically with you any more, why not talk to them anyway? Tell them what is happening in the world and how it makes you feel, tell them that you love them or talk about your memories of happy times. If you feel self-conscious talking to your pet, how about writing them a letter?
For older people and those in at-risk groups who’ve been advised to self-isolate for 12 weeks, looking after their pets – especially dogs – may be a pressing concern. The Cinnamon Trust recently mentioned on their Facebook page that they are looking for emergency volunteers to help walk dogs or pick up food and medical supplies on behalf of pet carers who are in high-risk categories.
Is this something you could help with? Have you thought about volunteering as a way to keep animals in your life and do something positive during this tough time? Many rescues are desperate for fosterers right now. From dogs and cats to bird, rabbits and guinea pigs, there’s an animal looking for a safe space to call home, even temporarily.
7. Offer support too
It’s probably fair to say that even those people who haven’t suffered a bereavement are grieving at the moment. In some way, we all stand to lose aspects of our normal lives, although things will hopefully return to normal eventually.
In a strange twist of fate, those of us who were already grieving may be better placed to move through this surreal reality we find ourselves in. You will already have a deep understanding of how grief can make you feel; this means you can be instrumental in spreading much-needed kindness and empathy to those who are struggling.
And maybe too, other people will gain new insight into your pet loss grief too.
Maybe in their own grief for lost normality, they will recognise how the loss of a loved pet, a comforting presence and the routine that goes with caring for them, can cut so very deep.
Perhaps that could be one of the good things that comes from the coronavirus? More empathy, more patience, more support.
Whatever the future holds, we’ll remind you once again that you are not alone right now. Reach out to The Ralph Site. There is a whole community there for you.
Very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support