Grief and the Healing Process

"May I honor - and trust - the process of grief and of healing, knowing that, in time, a new day will come."  - Martha Whitmore Hickman

When we lose a beloved pet, the pain we experience may feel unbearable.  Grief is complicated and follows its own timetable.  Sometimes we may find ourselves wondering if the pain will ever end.  We go through a variety of emotional experiences, such as anger, confusion, and sadness. 

As Deanna Edwards eloquently describes in her book, Grieving:  The Pain and the Promise, "Grief is our emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual response to loss.  It is the overwhelming involvement of all of our senses to deprivation.  In its many forms, grief comes to all.  It can strike us in unexpected ways at any moment in our lives.  It reminds us how vulnerable we are and how fragile life is.  Grief is inseparably connected to our capacity to love.  The depth of our grief is in direct proportion to the clarity and care with which we have loved."

Take Small Steps and Practice Self Care

Feelings of panic and confusion often follow the death of an animal companion. These feelings can cause us to isolate, avoid family and friends, and refuse to try new things.   In the early stages of the grieving process, we may find it difficult to engage in familiar and necessary activities.  While these feelings are normal, our willingness to accept the loss can help us overcome panic and confusion.  

Some people blame themselves after the death of an animal companion. Focusing on guilt can prevent recovery. Talking with friends, family, or a counselor can aid in confronting and dealing with unresolved feelings. If allowed, grief can be a time of valuable personal growth and advancement as you discover new things about yourself and the depth of your inner strength. 

Experts recommend the following:

1. Give yourself permission to grieve.

2. Don't be afraid to cry.

3. Be patient with yourself - grieving takes time and feelings of sadness and despair dissipate slowly.

4. Find a compassionate listener.

5. Lean on old relationships and reach out to build new relationships.

6. Live in the moment - one day at a time.

7. Postpone making major decisions until you feel confident.

8. Focus on your major responsibilities - family, job, home, and friends.

9. Join a support group.

10. Take care of your body by exercising, eating properly, and resting.

11. Knowledge is power. Learn about grief through books and videos.

12. Realize that it's normal and acceptable to feel angry, sad, and lonely.

13. Don’t panic when you have a setback. Grief has its own individual timetable.