Taking Care of Yourself
Be kind to YOU
Self-care when you’re grieving
It is so important to look after yourself when you are grieving. You have lost a dearly loved family member and your world has been turned upside down. You need to look after yourself physically as well as emotionally. You also need to take positive steps to help you work through your grief.
You may experience
- Loss of appetite
- Uncontrolled bouts of crying
- Physical exhaustion
- Suicidal thoughts
Look after your physical and mental health
Many people lose their appetite at this time. If you can’t face a whole meal, try a smoothie or eating small amounts during the day. Put out a plate of snacks and eat something – however small – when you can. Some people find it helps to set an alarm to remind them to eat.
Make sure you drink enough fluids. Hydration is important for your health as well as cognitive functioning.
Sleep can be elusive in the weeks and months after a loss. If it goes on too long, see your doctor. Many people find a cuddly toy helps them sleep and brings some comfort. Don’t be embarrassed – seek comfort and solace where you can. This is about you and your needs.
If you are experiencing ongoing feelings of depression and/or anxiety, see a medical practitioner.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately: https://blog.opencounseling.com/suicide-hotlines/
The solution is not in a bottle or a jar
It’s easy to turn to alcohol or other substances while we are grieving. While they may help temporarily dull the pain, they won’t change the situation or help you process your grief. Remember that you really don’t want to end up with another issue on top of everything else.
Start your recovery offers a range of excellent resources to help deal with substance abuse. If you think you are overdoing it, seek help and advice.
Dealing with anniversaries
Reframe and rename tough anniversaries by calling them ‘angelversaries’. At first, these will be weekly, then monthly and then annually.
Some people buy their pet’s favorite treats and donate them to a local shelter on angelversaries. This way they honor their pet’s memory and help other animals in need.
Distraction is your friend
We can’t escape the pain of grief but sometimes we need to give our hearts and our heads a rest from the unending pain. You may find it helps to spend time with a friend, or to go for a walk or to a movie.
Activities that need some – but not too much – concentration can also help, for example coloring, gardening, knitting or doing puzzles.
Be with people who understand
You may be disappointed to find that those closest to you – even other pet owners – do not understand the magnitude of your loss and fail to offer you the support you need. Distressingly, you may find people expect you to be ‘over it’ in a short period of time.
People don’t usually mean to be unkind – they just truly don’t understand how deep the bond you had with your beloved pet was, and the depth of your grief.
If you find friends and family aren’t offering you the support and compassion you need or make unfeeling comments like ‘it was just a cat’ or suggest you get a ‘replacement’ pet, they are not the best people to talk to about your loss and grief.
Seek help if you need it.
- Visit our free chat room or one of our facilitated Zoom sessions. These are both run by our trained Pet Loss Grief Specialists.
- Join our Connect and share your pet loss story and be with others in the same situation.
- Find a qualified pet loss grief specialist or counselor, or support group. You can find a listing of a range of services on our Resources page.
Learn more about what you’re going through
- Read The Loss of a Pet by Dr Wallace Sife. Many people find this book very helpful in dealing with their loss.
- Check out our Recommended Reading page for other excellent books on pet loss and grief.
Capture your memories
Try journaling. Write down your beautiful memories in a special notebook or write a letter or poem to your loved one and on the bad days refer to it. You may even find a smile through the tears.
Some people like to create a memory jar. This involves writing down memories about your beloved pet on small pieces of paper and keeping them in a special jar. Reading those happy memories can help take the edge off the pain.
Create something beautiful
Build a memorial garden or make a planter box that sits where your beloved pet sunned themself. Perennials are a good choice as they renew each season, or you may choose something that flowers around the time your pet died. In times to come, each bloom will bring a smile.
Join the APLB and create an online memorial
Join the APLB and add your beloved animal companion/s to your Profile page. This acknowledges your special bond and celebrates your time together.
Find a personal way to memorialize your beloved pet
Many people like to wear memorial jewelry – some can accommodate a small amount of your pet’s ashes.
Memorial tattoos are becoming increasingly popular. Some people choose to get a tattoo of their pet’s name or picture.
You can find more great suggestions on memorializing your beloved pet under Children & Pet Loss.