The holiday season can bring many emotions with it, especially when we are grieving. There is a societal norm that says we all need to be joyful during this time but for many, grieving or not, this time of year can be more painful than at other times. While it may be comforting to be around family and friends as we share our traditions with them, it can also be a very stressful time as well. Add our grief for our beloved “furkids” and this time of year can be very overwhelming. There are, however, things we can do to make this time of year much more bearable.
The following suggestions can be used to help you get through this time.
- Plan Ahead – This can be done for both pre holiday and holiday events. When shopping for gifts, plan your routes to avoid places that may evoke painful memories. (I.e. the vets office, stores or parks that you used to visit together). If you are invited to homes that have pets or home/events that you took your pet to – think about how it will feel to be there without your “furkid”. The most important thing is to check in with yourself beforehand and see how it feels to you. If it doesn’t feel good – don’t do it.
- Allow Yourself an Exit Strategy – If you do “have” to go to an event or even want to try and attend – take your own car. This allows you the ability to leave if the feelings of grief get too strong. It’s okay to say that you are “tired or not feeling well” and need to leave early.
- Form New Traditions – It may be difficult to celebrate the holidays in the same way you did when your “furkid” was alive. If you find this to be true, form new traditions. For instance, if your cat loved to play with the ornaments on the tree, create a special ornament just for them – maybe with their picture on it or if your “furkid” shared in the tradition of lighting the Menorah, light a special candle for them before you light the Menorah each night. Take a moment at Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner to go around the table each sharing a special “treasured memory” of your pet or share a special memory for each night of Chanukah. Send out holiday cards with your pet’s picture on them. Create a personalized 2015 calendar using pictures of your “furkids”. Many stores, such as Kinko’s, offer specials to help with this.
- Allow Yourself to Grieve – There is this “myth” that everyone has to be joyful and happy during the holiday season. This can make you begin to feel guilty about your grief. It’s important to remember that there is no timeline for grief and that it’s okay to grieve. Make time for yourself to feel what you need to feel.
- Memorialize Your Pet – Take time to visit the grave of your beloved pet – lay a wreath or plant a tree for them. Send your beloved “furkid” a holiday decorated balloon with a personalized message. Donate time, money or supplies to your favorite charity in your pet’s name.
- Surround Yourself with Supportive People – Be choosy when it comes to who you spend time with during the holiday season. Whenever possible, find people who have been supportive of you during your grieving and who will understand how you feel at this time.
- Reach Out for Help – The holiday season can be a trying time in the best of situations. It’s important, especially at this time, that if you are feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed or extremely emotional that you reach out for help. Call a supportive friend, visit one of the on-line pet loss support chatrooms offered by the APLB (www.aplb.org), or schedule an appointment with a Pet Loss Counselor who can help you through this time either on an individual basis or in a group.
During this holiday season, let’s give ourselves the holiday present of unconditional love, the same unconditional love that we shared with our beloved pets. By doing so, it’s possible to heal from this grief and get through this time in a positive and healthy manner.
We at PetLoss Partners wish you a healing and comforting holiday season. Know that You Are Not Alone. We are here to support you.