As we all know only too well, losing a loved one is unbearably hard.
Over time, the shattered fragments of ‘normal life’ do begin to rearrange themselves into a new kind of ‘normal’ – not quite the same as before, but forming some semblance of a state of living once more, rather than simply existing. How long this takes, and in what new form life begins to shape itself will be different for everyone, but just as surely as the healing will begin, there will also be days when the grief hits you hard all over again.
It might strike out of the blue – a sudden realisation that your beloved companion will not return – or it may accompany a chance sighting, a reignited memory triggered by the sight of a flower that perfectly matches the collar your pet was buried with, or finding a forgotten toy under the sofa, months later. Then of course there are those special dates – birthdays, anniversaries of passing, the first Christmas or holiday without your pet.
People will tell you that these milestone days are the hardest – each a stark reminder that someone who was so special is no longer present. And whilst it’s certainly true that on such occasions your loss will be keenly felt, preparing for and marking a key date can sometimes make it easier to cope; providing some kind of structure to your grief, if only for one day. Giving yourself permission to be sad, and signalling to others that they need to pay extra attention to your feelings on such days can actually make these milestones serve a positive purpose, where before they were met with dreaded anticipation.
On the other hand for some people, heaping all the anger and sadness onto one day fails to acknowledge the pain felt every other day. There may also be times when you’re feeling strong and able to cope with those milestone dates, which can then lead to feelings of guilt that you weren’t sad enough, or of frustration when others around you assume that you must be ‘healed’ now because you coped so well on such a difficult day.
In all honesty there is no timetable for grief, as we’ve discussed before. There will always be good days and bad days, and sometimes the bad days can be predicted when they coincide with birthdays and anniversaries but sometimes they will loom large out of nowhere. The only constant is that there will be bad days, and they will decrease in number and intensity over time (although how long this time will be is impossible to say.)
How you cope with the birthdays and special days is entirely personal to you, and may be different from one year to the next. If you’re feeling strong, taking a walk along the routes you explored with your canine companion can bring back happy memories and reconnect you with people and routines that you may not have experienced since your pet’s passing. Not quite closing the book, but at least opening a new chapter. Or you might wish to donate a present in your pet’s name to a rescue centre, or bake a cake and blow out candles in his or her memory.
Do whatever helps and ignore what doesn’t.
Don’t feel compelled to be or do things a certain way, especially on these milestone days.
This is your grief – dealing with it in your own way and in your own time is the only sure way to find your peace.
Until next time, best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support
Please note: The Ralph Site is not affiliated with the third-party organisations in any of the links shared here, and the views, ideas and suggestions expressed in this and other blogs are simply shared with the intention of helping you, our friends, take care of the special animals in your lives.