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Restful Paws

Grief During the Holidays

Lady laying on the floor cuddling an orange dog and gray and white cat

For many people, the holidays are a time spent with our loved ones and a time of celebration and togetherness. When you have lost a family member, including a beloved pet, the holidays can magnify your sense of grief and loss as you realize that your loved one can no longer celebrate with you, and perhaps your traditions have changed now that they are gone. Grief associated with the loss of an animal is often described as “disenfranchised grief”, meaning it is not entirely understood, supported, or accepted by our human companions. This makes the strenuous grieving process over the loss of a beloved animal an even more daunting process than it already is. Allowing the grief we feel some time and attention is an important gift to give ourselves, our families, and our animals during this time of year.

Telling the Story

Take time to share stories of the pet you loved with friends and family. Once you start reminiscing about your beloved friend, others that shared your love for your pet may chime in with their own memories. Revisiting these stories provides an opportunity to recall and verbalize memories of your animal. Remember that crying is a natural outlet of grief and that tears are okay. Telling our stories and revisiting our best memories can be healing for all.

Take time to grieve

Grieving is a formidable task, and it is normal to want to avoid the pain of it. In general people do this by keeping busy, which is easy to do during the holidays. Remember that you don’t have to attend every celebration or accomplish every task on your holiday to do list. The simplest way to remember your pet is to simply take a moment from the speed of life, sit quietly, remember your time together, and give yourself permission to grieve. Often what happens from taking that time out is that your imagination and creativity bring ideas for how to remember your pet in other ways, or how to include others in this process.

Give to a local charity

A traditional gesture is to make a holiday donation to an animal charity organization in your pet’s name. Perhaps your pet’s veterinarian has a companion animal fund that was established to help less financially fortunate families afford veterinary care for an ailing pet. Your local animal shelter or rescue will always put your donation to good use. Or you could create a small cozy quilt to donate to a shelter for use in keeping animals without homes comfortable.

Make an Offering

It is traditional to create a special place to make an offering in memory of a deceased loved one. One could take that idea in a variety of directions. It could be as simple as looking through photographs and choosing one to display and lighting a votive candle next to it in remembrance.