Alternative Resources Pet Loss – Grief Support

May 5, 2022

Alternative Resources – What Is Helping Me Get Through Pet Loss – Grief Support

When support groups don’t work…

When your family doesn’t grieve like you…

What do you do?

I will share 4 alternative resources for pet loss and general grief support

These helped me so much. I never would have thought of them.

I was so incredibly sad losing my good friend suddenly. Then almost 2 weeks later my dog Willow passed. Unbelievably, 2 days after Willow passed, our kitty passed.

When you have multiple losses close together, I’ve learned that is called “cumulative grief.” It is difficult to navigate as you feel like you’re juggling all these feelings and not gaining progress on grieving any one of your losses.

You just want your loved one back and you want to feel less pain. You don’t want to forget them. I kept telling my husband, “I just want my dog back!”

I tried an online pet loss support group.

I tried an in person support group for grieving people.

I didn’t feel like I fit at either of those. 

What do you do when a pet loss support group isn’t a good fit?

Maybe you’re an introvert like me, and recharge better by yourself. 

Don’t get that confused with isolating yourself! Most people, introvert or extrovert, have a natural tendency to withdraw when in grief, but it’s not healthy or helpful to isolate.

So, what did I do? I picked up my doggie and kitty’s ashes AND I SEARCHED FOR HELP.

(Willow’s last ride)
When you heal better by yourself

Here is what worked for me:

  1. Mental Health Coaching online – mini courses to watch by my favorite clinical psychologist and NY Times best-selling author, Dr. Henry Cloud. There is a very small cost for this help online, but currently a free 14 day trial is offered. I completed his mini course on grief, which was like listening to 3 podcast sessions. What he explained really made sense and helped.
  1. Grief program online by well known expert on grief, David Kessler. There is a small monthly cost for this course and community, but currently he is offering this 1 month free. I watched some of his videos and recorded Zoom calls, which were very comforting and helpful.
  1. Talking with the care pastor at my church. WOW! Never would’ve thought of this! He suggested things like the following:
  • To grieve each loss separately
  • Make time to chat with a friend or family member about memories we shared
  • Not to let people push me to do anything, like get rid of my pet’s collar, etc. 
  • Find what’s helpful and do that (as shared in my practical mood lifters below)
  • Make sure to drink, eat, exercise and rest
  • The “what if” game isn’t helpful. (Guilt is so normal!) Who knows if I did something different would have made a difference. Have compassion on myself.
  • Grief comes in waves and realize it’s normal to feel better, then have a very sad day
  1. Practical mood lifters that helped me feel better
  • Box Breathing (Inhale for 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds, exhale 4 seconds, wait 4 seconds, repeat)
  • Making coffee just for the smell (I’m a tea drinker.)
  • Buying myself LOTS of flowers
  • Going slow on whatever I needed to (ex. Explaining to a client what happened and thanks for their patience)
  • Going for a drive and listening to music (not during the 1st week, couldn’t see through the tears to drive)
  • Going outdoors extra and just being quiet
  • Opening my window to hear the birds chirping
  • Reading verses / affirmations
  • Praying / meditating
  • Having my house cleaned
  • Smelling essential oils (especially citrus)
  • Coffee with a friend
  • Light a candle
  • Donating their cleaned pet beds to the local animal shelter
  • Volunteering to photograph the adoptable cats at my local rescue

This was so strange for me, as usually I, MYSELF, am the one comforting everyone else creating pet loss portraits and memorials though my pet portrait business.

But, I was the one needing comfort.

Grief is such a journey.

There is no way around it (unless you repress your feelings and find them coming out sideways later). 

I’m learning to notice my grief, not fight it, put a name or visual to it and let myself cry. I envision a bouquet of blue balloons and sometimes they are enough to carry away a house like the movie “Up,” while sometimes they are a normal bunch of balloons.

(Photo by Jordan Whitfield)
What else helped me with pet loss grief?

It was nice to read messages of those sending love. It was helpful to heal my heart when receiving a greeting card or even a little gift.

I will always remember how I felt supported just when someone would message me and say ‘Thinking of you” even weeks later. 

(From Willow’s Aunties)

I’m still figuring out how I’d like to set up a memorial area for my pets in my home. Right now, I have a little makeshift memory corner on our kitchen counter (pictured above) with my friend’s memorial program, a photo of Willow and a photo of Paris next to a candle. (Can you believe I found a candle with the word “Willow” on it at Target? What a find, right?)

I’ve decided to establish a formal memorial shelf in my office to enjoy their:

  • Photos
  • Etched pet portraits
  • Urns

It’s becoming quite a shrine! They are worth it!

I know that EVERYONE reading this post will at some point, go through the grief journey while grieving a pet, friend or family member.

So, I hope sharing these alternative ways to get through pet loss and grief will serve you in some way.

If you’d like more information on other pet loss resources, unique memorials, etc. please download my Senior Pet Care and Pet Loss Guide by scrolling to the bottom of this page. The Guide, full of helpful info, will be emailed to you soon after!

4 Comments

  1. Sarah

    I almost lost my dog to a medical emergency. First thing I thought of was wishing I had a lock of her hair to keep in a locket. Bought a mini jar keychain with a paw print charm to place her lock of hair in when the time comes. Still need to get a paw print if she’ll hold still long enough ♥

    Reply
  2. Mindy Bailey

    When I lost my emotional support dog in 2018 I had an emotional breakdown. I didn’t go to work, get out of bed, I cried so hard I would throw up. Then I was very sick for a year throwing up all day. The hospital told me not to waste their time. After a year I had to have emergency surgery. I had to go through all this without my Moose. I got another dog that I love but he isn’t an emotional support dog or a lap dog like my Moose. He is afraid of loud noises so it’s hard to walk him. But I keep trying. He just wants to play, play do that’s what we do. No one wanted to hear me talk about my dog. My boyfriends mom was more cruel to me than ever. She told me she was selling the house we rented and I had no money and I sold my car to pay for vet bills. What helped me is my Moose kept sending me feathers. We had a thing where he would find feathers on our walks and I would bring them home. One day I was in the bathroom and his puppy tags fell off a shelf. I did not put those on that shelf. Do I know it was my Moose telling me he is still with me in spirit. It was so heartbreaking loosing him because he was my soul dog we could read each other’s minds. From the first night I brought him home he never left my side. If I had a day that I had a panic attack he would put his paws around me and just lay with me. People would say that they never saw a dog so in love with someone the way he loved me. I loved him more than anyone in my life because he is the only one who truly loved me. I’m sorry to write such a long message but I have had no one to talk to.

    Reply
    • Mandi

      Mindy, Your Moose sounds like such a comfort and a love. I’m really sorry for your loss. I believe in little signs too, like the feathers. Yes, each pet that we get the joy of sharing this journey with is so different. A big hug to you!

      Reply

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