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Surviving the Loss of a Pet: Tips to Get Through the Grief

Your animal has died and you are distraught. You have never felt such deep and prolonged loss and are afraid to share this with others who will minimize and perhaps dismiss your pain as misplaced or trivial. Wrong. All of us who have shared life with (not "owned") animals have entered and emerged from this unavoidable black hole, and we'll likely revisit it as long as we live with animals whose life spans do not equal ours in measure. What can you do with this grief?

1. Give yourself permission to grieve, and give your self permission to grieve hard. Experience it. Embrace it, even. It's real and it's potent. Avoiding grief, burying it, masking it, will guarantee its future re-emergence as a larger and more devastating threat to your well being.

2. Remember. Remember the joy and mischief, the silly songs and the serious training, the intimacy and the frustration, the quiet support and cuddles your dog gave you when he sensed you needed them most.

3. Talk about your memories, especially with other dog people who understand and with those who knew your dog. Invite them to share their memories as well.

4. Make the memories visual. Place photographs of your dog or cat around the house so you connect with him or her consiously at ever turn. Our animals want us to remember them this way. Keep in mind that in their consciousness, they have not left us. They have simply changed form. They're still with us. We need to focus on the reality that their energy continues.

5. Create a memorial, a photo collage, an altar, a scrapbook chronicling your dog's life.

6. Avoid people who do not understand your grief, who tell you, "It was just a cat (or dog or bird). You can always buy another one. " As my grandmother would have said, "Feh!"

7. Do something to connect with your animal in spirit through dreams, where our spiritual selves roam unencumbered by bodies. Before falling asleep, you can look at photographs of your dog or cat or meditate briefly on your relationship. SEE yourselves together. Hold this as your last mental image as you shut the light.

8. Carry an object with your animal's energy: a photo, a toy, even a "baby" tooth. It will comfort you and connect you to your animal in spirit in a very psychic way. When I lost my soul mate dog, Seamus, I slept with his collar inside my pillowcase for months.

9. Create a memorial service. I've seen quite a few of these and have written some for clients.
Invite friends and family -- even other dogs -- to your home or to a park or favorite outdoor place where you can share stories, read a poem or prayer, and give this loss the sacred dimension it deserves. Honor your animal's soul. It is just as Divine as your own.

10. Create. If you paint, paint your dog's portrait. If you write, write a story or memoir. Sew. Quilt. Dance.

11. READ about other people's animals for entertainment, to return you to the joy you shared rather than the grief that sems to impale you. Look for stories about antics and misadventures. Please -- read James Thurber! You'll relate and and laugh from the belly doing it.

12 . Consider getting another dog or cat, not to replace the one who has died but to HONOR him . The one thing dogs enjoy most is other dogs. They are pack animals and having loved you as their pack leader, they don't want to see you alone. The want you to cherish their memory and grieve without losing yourself to that grief. They do not want you to suffer but to recover. Welcoming another animal, whether it is a puppy/kitten from a breeder or an older rescue, is your chance to shower a new friend with the calibre of love with gave your old friend. Consider the circularity of life and love: the multiple blessings your animal gave to you will continue as you bless the new one in your life with your love. Bringing in a new pet by no means eclipses the relationship you had with your animal. In fact, it does just the opposite; it strengthens it.

When my first schnauzer, Kasha, died, I was reluctant to consider another one until a secretary in my department gave me this essay to read. When I finished it, I found a breeder in St. Petersburg, FL and excitedly readied my home for the entry of a new pup in HONOR of the one I'd just released to spirit. This essay will certainly help you, too. It's Eugene O'Neill (actually, it was written by Eugene O'Neill's dog), The Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O'Neill:
www.eoneill.com/texts/blemie/contents.htm

Comments

Pam N said…
Great ideas all. I did something to help me over the loss of my beloved Lab, Monet. I sat down at the computer and just started writing bullet points: Things I never want to forget about Monet. I actually added to it over many days as memories came to me. We have another wonderful dog now. My husband said to me the other day... I am getting some of their antics confused and I am afraid I might be forgetting Monet. Out comes the paper I wrote; what a blessing to have had this.

Keep up the blogging Lisa... love reading you.
Lisa Shaw said…
Great ideas, Pam!!!!!
(It could be the start of a great book -- and with your artistic skills-- need I say more?)
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Frances said…
Acceptance might be hard for some who suffer from pet loss grief but then again, there'll be a time when they'll finally acknowledge that fact and move on, just like you did.
Jessica Meyers said…
Find a special way to say goodbye to your pet. Write a letter, a poem, or a special tribute. Pick a meaningful way to memorialize your pet by making a scrapbook, planting a tree, or doing charitable works in order to divert your attention away from your pet loss grief.

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