When will I feel like myself again after losing a pet?
One of the most devastating things a person can experience is the loss of a pet. Quite frankly, it is losing a family member. From my own personal experience, the loss of my heart cat Dusty, gutted me for lack of a better word. The pain reached from the depth of my soul and ripped straight through my heart.
Anyone that has lost a pet knows exactly what I’m talking about. You wrestle with those feelings of guilt, anger, despair, confusion, and a mix of other emotions. I don’t know about you, but I cried my eyes out so much I looked like a professional boxer as my eyes were practically swollen shut.
The loss of my heart cat, impacted my emotional well being but also my physical side too. I had loss of appetite, my menstrual cycle was thrown off, my sleeping patterns were altered, and I felt fatigued and exhausted most the time.
So, with all this in mind, we understand the mental and physical impact is harsh, but what you really want to know next is, when will I start to feel back to myself again after losing a pet?
Newsflash, I hate to break it to you but…
I’ll cut right to the chase and say, you won’t. Granted this is my own opinion but some things in life just forever change you from your core. And losing a pet is one of those pivotal moments in life you won’t forget. Happier events like weddings, graduations or getting your first job are all moments you will never forget. In contrast, dealing with death is the same just on a whole different spectrum.
Reality sets in…
Create a new normal
The reality about getting back to a sense of normalcy is that you won’t return to the way things were but rather now have to create a brand new normal. If you have been following my blog the past couple of years you’ve seen my journey from grieving to foster parent and everything in between.
When you lose a pet, especially when you’ve lost a pet that was a solo ruler of the house, it’s a huge blow. Your entire routine is thrown off orbit. Your daily routine built to include your pet no longer exists. Now you have to get used to fixing breakfast for yourself first. Now it’s not necessary to take that walk at 5 am in the morning to walk or feed fluffy. There’s no more cuddles on the couch as you watch your favorite TV series. Fluffy isn’t around to greet you at the end of the day. Now it’s just an empty house without a pulse.
It is slightly different when you have additional pets at home. Although one of the pack is gone, the other furry siblings do force you to maintain some sort of routine. But even still, don’t think for one second that our pets don’t grieve and understand, because they do. Check our my other post When one pet dies, do our other pets grieve ?
Take time to grieve
Another reality you need to come to terms with is take your time to grieve. There are 5 stages to grief. You will feel denial, anger, acceptance and find healing with time. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. And the most important lesson I’ve learned is there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Losing a pet is downright devastating for many pet parents. Everyone handles their grief differently and thus no one else’s pain should be compared or measured with that of another. How you handle your pain may be different than someone else experiencing the same thing. And that’s okay. Don’t let anyone convince you that your grief has a time limit.
At the end of the day, part of the healing process includes that four letter word you can’t get enough of in happier moments….it’s called T-I-M-E.
There is a saying that time heals all wounds. I’d like to tell you sure absolutely but then I’d be lying. However what is absolutely true is that with the passing of time, the heartache does lessen bit by bit.
In my own healing journey, I found that with time I would have random episodes of crying throughout the day to thinking I’ll probably never adopt again to fostering. Now it’s been four years since Dusty’s passing and with that lovely thing called TIME, I’ve found renewed joy again.
Now I have found activities I’m passionate about like painting and design. I can laugh again, and don’t have random crying episodes. But most important to me, I can talk about my sweet girls Dusty and Precious and speak of them with joy and happiness in my heart. My voice doesn’t crack as if I’m about to break down and hold back the tears in public.
So time does help to heal the heart and those open wounds. But that’s not all.
Continue to remember and speak of your pets often
Believe it or not, one of the things that helped me find healing after loss was reflecting. What I mean by that is, I would often recall the many funny moments and trips spent with Dusty. Often times I would come across old video clips of her in my emails or old photos. That always made me smile and also cry if I’m honest. However, for the most part, seeing video clips I took from my phone, made me smile because I was able to view her in her prime, active and happy.
Essentially, that’s the bottom line. Our pets serve as furry family members and also do anything to help put a smile on our face. They want to light up our lives with their joy, the wag of their tails and a knead of their paws making biscuits for us.
That’s the part I always try to remember. They live a full life everyday and we need to remember to care for ourselves to honor their memory and do the same. So talk about them, keep their memory alive in your hearts and mind. Find ways to memorialize your pets. Need ideas? Don’t miss 6 Ways to Memorialize your pet.
Our beloved furry family members are gone in the physical but the love always remains. I think that’s why it’s so hard to find healing after pet loss. The amount of love left behind transcends the physical space around us.
Find constructive ways to spend your days
A fourth way I learned to find my way back to normalcy, was finding constructive positive ways to spend my time. Truth be told, I was so depressed a few weeks after Dusty’s passing. I just wanted to spend all my free time outside of work at home in bed with the covers pulled over my head. I just didn’t want to be bothered.
But then after enough crying and looking at my puffy eyes, something nagged at me. I realized that I was not going to find any sort of healing by moping around the house. In my new normal reality I knew that tugging from my subconscious was my first inkling to take my pain and turn it into purpose. It was time to pay it forward.
Helping animals and the community
I found renewed joy by volunteering for a cat adoption organization called Kitty Kind in New York City and also worked with People for Animals of New Jersey as well. Both organizations help to find forever homes for cats in the local area. People for Animals takes it a step further and provides low cost spay and neuter services for both cats and dogs in the local area.
It was through my time doing volunteer work that I discovered the world of fostering animals. After the loss of my cat Dusty, I had zero intention of adopting again, let alone have another furry being in the house.
But you know what? Reflecting back, I know in my heart of hearts that was not true. I was born a cat lover and cannot see myself without another furry family member in the future. It’s in my DNA. It’s just who I am. I’m a Jersey girl, Aquarian and a cat lover through and through.
Participating in activities like giving back to the community and working with animals brought me so much joy and sense of purpose. It really did boost my morale, gave me a new routine, allowed me to meet new friends and feel useful again.
Discovering new and old passions
Lastly, through all this I learned about blogging and re-visited my love of painting. That’s right! It was through my experience losing Dusty I was inspired to start this very blog to help share my journey to finding healing after pet loss in hopes my story would help validate other bereaved pet parents feelings.
Additionally, my time spend painting helped me realize how much exploring my creativity helped me feel at peace. It is just another avenue in which I can heal my heart while sharing my creations with others. You can check out my portfolio of art and designs at my Impurrfectlife Art studio.
Find the right support
Finding the right support system to help you navigate through your grief is important. I wrote a post called 5 Online resources for pet loss support a while back. I found a few support groups through Facebook regarding losing a pet and also a blogging community that helped me in my time of grief.
Most importantly, I found my greatest support from family and friends during my time of grieving the loss of Dusty. It’s so crucial to find the right type of support when in such a vulnerable state.
Unfortunately, you may discover those closest to you may not empathize or share your viewpoints on what it means to lose a pet. I’ve learned the hard way that some people don’t show care or empathy as you would have hoped. And in many instances make verbal comments that hurt more than they help you in your time of grief. If you are curious to learn about my experiences with this, read 5 Things you should not say to a grieving pet parent.
Navigating through grief is tricky. When it comes to losing a pet there is no right or wrong way to grieve, but you do have to go through the storm to come out stronger on the other side. Remember, honor the memory of your pet by speaking of them, memorialize them in your own way and keeping their memory close to your heart. There is healing in reflection. There is also healing in paying if forward as well. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but does lessen the heartache.
Will your life ever be the same again? No, however you can always create a new type of normal for yourself and the rest of your family.
It’s taken me about four years to finally get to a place where I’m ready to adopt again. Will it be that long for you? Who knows? Some people find healing quicker than others.
What I can tell you is that after the storm a rainbow does appear. Our greatest challenges teach us our greatest lessons in life. The greatest lesson I’ve learned through grief after pet loss is that although they are gone, the love always remains. And that will never change because our pets are forever a part of us.
Are you someone that has experienced losing a pet? Did this post resonate with you? Curious to learn about my other adventures post pet loss? Read some of my other posts below.
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Originally published Nov. 2019. Updated April 2020.