Pet Loss Support Resources

Steps to coping with grief.

by Gabrielle England

Grief is such a personal journey, and the landscape is different for each of us. Yet we all know once touched by grief, the weather changes moment by moment. The time in this land might be a short stay or it might take years. The terrain often consists of denial, anger, fear, loneliness, depression and regret. You might be dealing with one level of grief, or multiple levels at a time, which can be very overwhelming.

My journey through and in grief has had multiple levels in a very short span of time. Starting with saying goodbye to my beloved horse 3 years ago, who had untreatable health complications at a young age, losing 10 family and close friends, and ending toxic relationships. It has been rough seas to say the least. Sometimes it is when you are at your most vulnerable, most depleted that you start searching for ways to cope and change your current state of mind. The following suggestions are things I have done and are doing to help nurture my path through grief, my backpack of essentials, and I share them with you.

Give yourself permission to grieve.

Allowing yourself to have the space to grieve is so important. Be gental with yourself and try not to judge, or let others judge you. This is a personal journey, it takes time, courage and plenty of compassion. It is easy to stuff emotions and pretend everything is alright by keeping busy. Yet avoiding our grief tends to make it last longer. Greif needs room to come and go like waves sometimes. Not letting grief happen can lead to health issues such as depression, anxiety and even substance abuse. Give yourself permission to grieve.

Remembering to Breathe

When you are grieving it is easy to feel overwhelmed with emotion, and it is unnerving. Doing the simple act of breathing, by focusing on your breath can help. The idea is to allow yourself to feel your energy, breathe it in. On the out breath, think about opening your heart to compassion, forgiveness and serenity. Breath in your discomfort, even have courage to fully feel what you are avoiding. On the out breath give yourself love, compassion and forgiveness; or any supportive opening and nurturing words that will help you. All of us have the healing power of breath. Even if you can just pause for 3 breaths, in a time of grief that can be a big step.

Journal

Journaling allows you write down all your feelings, and get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. During a very dark time for me with grief, journaling helped so much. Getting a notebook and each morning, the first thing you do is write 3 pages of none stop longhand writing. No matter what comes to mind, write it down. It might feel silly, stupid, relieving, relaxing yet write it down. These pages are only for you, no one else is to read them. After a couple months of writing, you can go back and see where you were, and where you are now. There is no right or wrong way to write, just unload your brain on to the page. Then move on until the next morning, and do it again. I have been journaling for over 5 years, and at first it was a task, trying to remember to do them. If you forget, there is not shame, no guilt about it, just pick up where you left off. When the habit started to feel normal, something shifted, and I started to look forward to the pages.

Do something active.

During the grieving process, there might be times of feeling completely lethargic, not wanting to get up, curling up into a ball, and not having any motivation. Allowing this to linger can lead to depression. By moving your body, even going for a walk can help. The rhythm of walking helps us to relax, it allows us to think, to get some fresh air and release endorphins. Physical exercise can ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Walking in the outdoors, looking at the trees, listen to the birds, look at the views, helps give your brain a rest and can draw your focus outward. Going for a walk is an act of self-nurturing, even if you can manage 5 minutes, that is a start. You might also check to see if there are walking groups in your area, some are created by people who are also going through grief. If there isn't one, maybe start a new group on Meetup.

Meditation

During my time with grief, I decided I would try meditation. I downloaded and app on my phone, "Headspace", thought I would try it. I appreciated how they simplified the whole process and explained it cleverly. 10 minutes a day, and I have to say, it helped. I was in a place of darkness and knew I needed to do something to get out. Pausing for just 10 minutes was enough to get to point my brain could rest without all the chatter. It created a space within me, to be able to breathe again.

Another helpful teaching, was and is listening to Pema Chodron on youtube. Pema has a very compassionate and real way of talking about fear, anxiety, anger, regret. The video that I have gone back to repeatedly, is "Going to places that scare you", It has a wonderful way of making you feel like you are not alone, and has a beautiful meditation, which resonates on forgiveness, compassion and openness. I highly encourage you to listen to this and other videos posted. Pema is a Buddhist monk, when looking for help and understanding with grief, grief is a universal emotion.

"Someone needs to encourage us not to brush aside what we feel. Not to be ashamed of the love and grief that it arouses in us. Not to be afraid of pain. Someone needs to encourage us: that this soft spot in us, could be awakened and that to do this would change our lives." - Pema Chodron

If you have done something that helped you cope with grief, please share it with us. We would love to hear from you. Coping with Grief Reply



HOTLINES AND RESOURCES

UC Davis Pet Loss Support

Cornell University pet loss support hotline

University of Illinois pet loss helpline

Michigan State University pet loss support hotline

Tufts University pet loss support hotline

Washington State University pet loss hotline

WEB RESOURCES

Pet Partners--counselors, groups, websites, memorials, articles
Pet Loss and Bereavement Directory

American Veterinary Medical Association - Making the decision
Also, search "pet loss" in Search AVMA box

Argus Institute, Colorado State University--Grief Resources

California Veterinary Medical Association

HealthyPets.com (American Animal Hospital Assn.)--dealing with the loss of a pet

Animal Hospice care--American Assn. of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians

Purdue University Center for the Human-Animal Bond--pet loss and grief

Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement

MORE ONLINE SUPPORT:

Rainbow Bridge, Pet Loss Grief Support, Monday Candle Ceremony Pet Loss Grief Support offers personal support resources, Monday Candle Ceremony, Chat Room, ...

Lightning Strike Pet Loss Support | Death of Pet, Sick Pet, Pet Loss ... One of the oldest pet loss support websites on the Internet, online since 1996. Provides help for pet lovers with a pet loss message board, pet loss book store, ...

Pet Loss Support Coping with grief on the death of a pet; tips on pet loss bereavement. ?Euthanasia - ?The Final Farewell - ?The Emotions of Pet Loss - ?When to Get a New Pet

Washington Pet Loss Resources - Pet Loss Support Seattle: Pet Loss Support Group Seattle Animal Shelter - 2061 15th Avenue West, Seattle WA, 98119, 206-386-PETS, kara.main-hester@seattle.gov, ...

Pet Loss Support - The College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell ... Staffed by trained volunteer students from the College of Veterinary Medicine. Offers hotline hours, FAQ, and links to a variety of grief resources.

Pet Loss | ASPCA It is as natural and necessary to grieve for the loss of a pet as it is for any loved one who dies. And it is important to have compassion and support in one's time of ...

Pet Loss Support - DoveLewis | Emergency Animal Hospital Pet Loss Support. This program is designed to help people whose pets have passed away. It is in no way a part of our Lost & Found Pet Database. Click here if ...

Pet Loss Support Group - City of Seattle The loss of a pet can be very difficult. The Seattle Animal Shelter offers a Pet Loss Support Group that provides volunteers that are here to help.

Pet Loss Support Group | Humane Society Facilitated by trained volunteers, The Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County's Pet Loss Support Group provides a safe, supportive environment where ...

Pet Loss Grief Support Community Resources at Rainbow Bridge Resources for emotional healing from the death of beloved pet. Visit the Petloss chat and forum. Read inspirational thoughts on coping with your loss.



Regardless how old our pets are, they work their way into our hearts, becoming our companions and friends. When your pet needs to be put down or passes away, it leaves an empty place in a family's setting. It isn't easy to say goodbye.

Grieving is a healthy experience that touches a person physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Don't be afraid of your grief symptoms. You have experienced a major loss. Grievers often experience anger, extreme sadness, depression, despair and jealousy of others who haven't experienced a loss. Be gentle with yourself as you go through your grief. Grief is the process of healing the wound of your loss.

Researchers have found that grieving has distinct phases:

1. The first phase is numbness, shock, denial, or a sense of unreality. Slowly, your mind will adjust to the new reality that you have lost a loved one. This is a difficult time during which thinking about or experiencing your grief may be too painful. The gift you can give to yourself during this phase is patience. You will need time to come to terms with the loss, perhaps as long as several weeks.

2. The next phase is disorganization, personal chaos, trying to adjust to the world without the company of your lost loved-one. During this phase, you become intensely aware of the reality of your loss, but would do almost anything to escape it. Strong emotion and exhaustion occurs during this stage and you may find it difficult to participate in your normal activities. The turning point in this phase comes as you gradually begin to understand the implications of your loss and figure out how return back to life without your loved one.

3. The final phase is reorganization, reconciliation, recovery, and acceptance. Although the pain of the loss remains, the unbearably quality of it lifts. Hope returns.

We know how difficult it is to lose an animal friend, because of our own loss.