Looking out of the window this morning, the garden is buzzing with activity. Blue tits dart past collecting twigs and moss, checking out nesting sites to raise their new broods. Spring is springing all around us, and yet as nature emerges from her winter slumber and another cycle of renewal and growth begins, this can be the hardest time to cope with the loss of a friend.
We have discussed the grieving process previously, and there are lots of valuable resources and links for anyone living through bereavement on our sister site The Ralph Site. Here’s a reminder of some of our suggested coping strategies – unfortunately we can’t promise that they’ll take the pain of your loss away completely, but they may help you come to the realisation that there are better times ahead.
- Don’t let others tell you how to feel, and don’t be hard on yourself if you feel differently than you have in similar circumstances in the past – everyone’s grief is unique
- Ask for help. This may be emotional support from friends and family, or practical help from friends (looking after any other pets until you feel ready, arranging memorials etc.) You may also benefit from professional advice and the support of a counsellor and you can find more details here.
- Talk to others who have lost pets – listening to their experiences helps to show that you are not alone and may unlock helpful suggestions for dealing with your own grief. You might like to join The Ralph Site’s private Facebook group where members share their thoughts and feelings openly and without judgment. Membership of this private group is by invitation only; all you need to do is click on the link here and leave a request to join.
- Create a memorial to your pet – this can be a photo album, a personal website, a posting on a public website or something more traditional, such as a grave marking, planting a tree in a favourite spot or a garden plaque or ornament
- Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet and make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep and exercise. Although it may be the last thing you feel like doing, exercising releases endorphins which will help to boost your mood
Maintain a normal routine. This is especially important if you have other pets in the house – they may be experiencing their own grieving process and keeping to an established daily timetable of feeding, walking and grooming helps bring some stability
- Look for new sources of joy. Sharing your life with a pet not only provides emotional fulfilment but also fills many hours of every day. Filling at least some of this space with a new hobby, volunteer work or by making new friends will help fill the void
- Stay connected to friends. For dog owners, walks provide opportunities to catch up with familiar faces – without these daily encounters valuable social interactions are lost and therefore it’s important to spend time in the company of friends and family to minimise feelings of loneliness
- Show any children in the family that it’s OK to grieve – keeping emotions bottled up is not healthy and by encouraging a child to talk about how they feel you’ll be helping both him / her and yourself move through the grieving process more quickly
- Don’t rush to fill the space with a ‘replacement’ pet. This is especially important for children – bringing a new hamster home within hours of losing a much-loved pet may give them the message that their grief and sadness can easily be overcome. They may feel disloyal to the memory of their friend and fail to bond with the new pet, or their reactions to future bereavements may be adversely affected.
Of course these tips are not intended as a cure-all for grief, but we hope that some or all of them may bring relief to anyone feeling that they may not feel happy again. Because just as the seasons roll inevitably on, our hearts and minds will find a way to heal themselves in time.
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.