Dealing with the holidays after pet loss is hard. Christmas is a few weeks away and if you asked me two 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 to help get you through. I know how you feel. I’ve been there.
7 Helpful Tips to Cope with the Holidays
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.
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 overcomes you. This is normal.
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.
Take time to give back
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 Salvation Army. Or if you have down time around this time of year, donate your time and extra hands to helping out at the soup kitchen to feed the hungry/homeless or if you prefer volunteer time at the local animal shelter in your areas. If neither of these options appeal to you, you can also make a donation to an organization in your pet’s honor.
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 lesson 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 two years ago.
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.
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? Anything you would add?
Post originally published 12/19/2016. Updated 11/29/2017.