Post originally published 12/19/2016. Updated 2019.
Dealing with the holidays after pet loss is hard. Christmas is just a matter of days away and if you asked me a couple of years ago, “Hey, get in the holiday spirit!” I’d be telling you “Bah humbug. I’m not in the mood”. Christmas 2015 had been just 11 months since the passing of my youngest cat Dusty, and I was flooded with a mix of emotions both happy and sad. I was not in the mood to decorate or participate in anything festive.
Dealing with the holiday season after losing a beloved pet is difficult, so here are a few tips I used to cope and hopefully it can help you too. I know how you feel. I’ve been there.
1) Take a moment to honor and remember your pet
Whether that means take a moment to say a small prayer or light a candle in their memory. Do something to remember Fluffy. Acknowledge and validate your feelings, don’t ignore them. It’s okay to feel emotional this time of year.
2) Anticipate you will feel some sadness this time of year
Losing a loved one, including pets, is a big deal. They are our family. Just as losing a human family member is a huge devastating loss, losing a pet has a huge impact as well. When you are used to sharing pivotal holidays with family and furry family it’s a jolt to your life when they are no longer a part of the holidays and special events in your life. So don’t be surprised if feelings of sadness and non-interest in festive activities overcome you. This is normal.
3) Remember the joyous festive memories you used to share with your pet(s)
It’s easy to dwell on the sadness and grief of the situation. Make it a point to remember positive happy moments you once shared. I love to recall our last Christmas together as a family of three because my heart felt so full. Dusty, my husband and I took a little Christmas getaway weeks before she passed. Fortunately Dusty was feeling pretty good at the time. She was active and had a hearty appetite still. She was in a good mood and to share quiet precious moments together as a family on Christmas holiday together was a blessing.
4) Pay it forward
This time of year makes me count my blessings for the little things, like running water, clean sheets, food and a roof over my head. With this in mind, you may want to consider doing some early spring cleaning at home and donate unused clothing items to the Salvation Army or local animal shelter.
Or if you have downtime around this time of year, donate your time and extra hands to helping out at the soup kitchen to feed the hungry/homeless. If that’s not for you, perhaps try helping save a life!
Not looking to adopt too soon? I understand. So consider fostering a pet or volunteer time at the local animal shelter in your area. Many animals need help getting socialized and used to human contact and affection. Fostering is a great way to help pets and yourself find joy and healing without the full commitment of adoption.
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Rainy days…What are you up to this weekend? Stubby is checking out the view on this rainy Saturday. Interested to know how he's doing? * Read my latest blog post My first month as a foster mom & an update on Stubby! To read the post, use the link in the profile or copy and paste this link https://impurrfectlife.com/foster-mom-update-stubby/ #cats #rainyday #saturday #fosteringsaveslives #impurrfectlife
Pictured above: My first successful foster Stubby
5) Remember this too shall pass
To clarify this is not to say your grief will end because really and truly it’s ongoing, however the intensity of the grief you feel today will be lessened a year from now. Grief comes in waves but the pain does lessen with the passage of time. There will come a time when you can fully enjoy the holidays once again. I feel like I’m definitely at the point today as compared to three years ago.
6) The Power of Music
Play some cheerful holiday tunes to help lift your mood and spirits. Music is food for the soul. My personal favorite is “All I want for Christmas is you” by Mariah Carey. By the time the song is over I find myself humming along.
7) Take care of yourself
In the midst of experiencing grief, it is easy to forget to take care of yourself. Be sure to not only acknowledge your feelings and emotions; find a good support system. Surround yourself with people who can relate to your experience and give you uplifting support. Also, don’t forget to take care of your physical self and incorporate an exercise routine multiple days during the week.
Eat healthy foods and avoid fast food and processed junk food. Admittedly this is a hard task especially at holiday times, but choose to make yourself a priority. The quality of food you consume does impact your health and also impacts your mood and brain function.
Comment and share below. Did you find any of these tips helpful? What other tips would you add?