Grief and Loss

Here's a series of recommendations for both the well-wisher and the person in grief; be it over a pet or person.

First for the griever:

  • Feel your feelings and resist any temptations to stifle them with alcohol or drugs.
  • Surround yourself with one or more support people who won't make light of your person's/pet's death. Talk about it.
  • Ritualize your loss through talking about the good and bad times.
  • Conduct rite-of-passage rituals such as a graveside memorial service, putting together a remembrance photo album, organizing a family get together, taping a farewell song or preparing a remembrance video.
  • Be prepared to experience sounds or sights around your home where you think you hear or see your person/pet. These experiences are normal and will subside over a few days or weeks. Some people experience their deceased pet re-appearing in their dreams. I myself had several dreams where some miraculous cure was found and Max was brought back to life again. Depending on your spiritual or religious beliefs, don't hesitate to acknowledge these experiences along with placing them in the appropriate context of your faith.
  • Allow time to heal. Get sufficient rest and nutrition.
  • Take off from work whatever time is needed.
  • Consider joining a bereavement group.
  • For pet loss, Consult the Internet web site of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement. This site was created by psychologist Wallace Sife, who became interested in the subject of pet loss and bereavement after his dachshund, Edel Meister, died of congestive heart failure in 1992. Dr. Sife's web site is located at: http://www.aplb.org

For the well-wisher:

  • Tell the bereaved pet owner that you are sorry to hear about their loss and you give your sincere condolences.
  • Ask the bereaved pet owner what they need most right now.
  • Do a mental inventory of your own comfort level and decide what you're able to give and what you're not able to give. Don't promise something you can't deliver.
  • In following up after the loss, instead of asking "How Are You?," say instead, "I'm calling to check in with you; to see what's going on and if there's anything I can help you with?"
  • Sometimes just listening (God gave us two ears and one mouth) and "being there," without trying to "fix it" with reassuring comments or questions about getting a new pet, is the most supportive thing you can do for a bereaved pet owner.
  • Within three to six months, most well-wishes get caught up in their day-to-day lives resulting in fewer and fewer supportive visits, phone calls, emails or cards. If you have the stamina and willingness, I recommend you stay in for the long-run and maintain your support as long as the bereaved pet owner wants or needs it.
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