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.
1) Planning Ahead – 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 with your pet). If you are invited to homes that have pets or where you used to visit with your pet, 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.
2) Allow Yourself an Exit Strategy – If you do “have” to go to an event or if you feel you want to try and attend an event, 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.
3) Forming New Traditions – It may be difficult to celebrate the holidays in the same way you did when you “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 dinner to go around the table, with each person sharing a special “treasured memory” of your pet. Or each night of Hannakah, before lighting the candle, share a special memory. You may also want to send out holiday cards with your pets picture on them, or create a personalized 2014 calendar using pictures of your “furkids”
4) Memorialize Your Pet – Take time to visit the grave of your beloved pet at the holiday time. Buy a special wreath or plant a tree for them. Think about honoring their memory by donating time/money or supplies to your favorite charity in your pet’s name
5) 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 to you during your grieving and who will understand how you feel at this time.
6) 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. Know that you don’t have to go through this difficult time alone. 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.
The greatest gift we can give ourselves and our beloved pets at this time is to care for ourselves with the same love and concern that we shared with them. Give yourself the holiday present of unconditional love and care just as we got from our beloved pets. It is possible to heal from this grief and get through this time in a positive and healthy manner. That is what our beloved pets would want for us.
We at PetLoss Partners wish you a healing and comforting holiday season. Know that You Are Not Alone. We are here to support you.
Ellie Freedman, MFT – 949-315-5616
Sandra Grossman, Ph.D – 818-421-1516
Sandra Grossman, Ph.D and Ellie Freedman, MFT are Certified Pet Loss Counselors in the Southern California area, working together as PetLoss Partners (www.petlosspartners.com). They offer support, in the form of individual and group sessions, as well as workshops for “pet parents” who are either anticipating the loss of a pet or who have recently lost a beloved pet. PetLoss Partners also offers support to those working in the Veterinary/Animal Care profession in the form of workshops.
Please visit their Website or Facebook page for more information