Holiday Pet Grief: 5 Tips on Getting Through the Season After the Loss of a Beloved Pet: Dr. Faith Banks
We are fortunate to have a guest blogger who can shed some light on an all-too-real subject that has touched the lives of anyone who has loved and lost a pet, especially around the holiday season. Dr. Faith Banks is a Veterinarian with over 15 years experience who recently launched Midtown Mobile Veterinary Services, which provides compassionate in-home palliative and hospice end-of-life care to allow people to strengthen and lengthen the bond they share with their much loved pet. We asked her to share her expertise on coping with the grief that comes with losing a pet, a feeling that can be amplified during the holiday season. Take it away Dr. Banks!
Ahh, the holidays! Usually such a joyous time for people; but if you are facing the holidays without Fluffy or Fido, the holidays can be a very difficult time for bereaved pet owners. Whether you lost your pet around holidays past or this is your first pet-less Christmas, these can be very emotional times. This can be even more difficult when everyone around you expects you to be filled with a joyous spirit!
There is hope though, and I have compiled a list of 5 tips to help you get through the holiday season without heading straight for the egg nog.
1. Don’t let others’ ignorance and insensitivity bring you down.
Comments like “Really, you are still sad?” “It was only a cat.” “Why don’t you just go and get another one?” can be very damaging but you must remember the old saying: it is them, not you. These comments do not reflect the way you should feel, rather, they display the way a large proportion of our non-pet owning population feel about pet loss and owner grief. If someone has never shared the bond with a loving and loyal companion animal, they often do not understand the hole that is left in one’s heart after their pets’ passing. Do not let their cool words get to you. Simply, let them roll of your back, like water on a duck.
2. Be proactive.
Tell your close friends that you are feeling the loss and you may need some extra empathy. A quiet night in with friends may be all you are up for, but the companionship will do you good.
3. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
My veterinary mobile practice focuses entirely on end of life care for pets. When I am listening to owners tell me their story of their best friend, they often get emotional and say “oh no, I am going to cry.” To which I always respond, “that’s ok, you can cry.” When you have loved and lost a friend and family member, whether they were covered in fur or not does not matter. A loss is a loss and you are allowed to grieve and you are allowed to cry.
4. Talk about your favourite holiday pet memories.
Whether it was the time Trixie climbed onto the table and ate the turkey dinner, or when Phoebe ripped open all the presents under the tree, reminiscing, though it may bring some tears to your eyes, may also bring a smile to your face. Say your pet’s name out loud and keep those memories alive in your heart and your mind.
5. Do something to honour your pet.
You can make a donation to a pet charity, volunteer to walk dogs at a local shelter during the holidays, or gather up some pet toys to donate to a local animal hospital. Although you don’t have your own special pet, you will feel good knowing you are helping others that are in need.
The grief that you feel from the loss of your beloved pet is not something you ever really get over. There will always be a piece of your heart missing. You need to work your way through the loss and allow yourself to feel the pain and then, when you are ready, allow yourself to smile once again.