Making Sense of Loss and Grief
When a cherished loved one dies, your world turns upside down and you lose your bearings. You’re consumed by grief, and the love you share with your dear furry friend becomes eclipsed by anguish. There’s little more you can think about than your pet being gone.
If the death is sudden, you may be in shock or numb with disbelief. This can happen even when the loss is anticipated. As the truth settles in, you’re often flooded with intense waves of fluctuating feelings, your mind is scrambled, and your body may manifest your anguish in strange and unsettling ways.
At this early point, you go from moment to moment, day by day, and time tends to fold back on itself as you replay recent events over and over. The profound pain of the loss drains your energy and the very concept of healing can escape you. What does that even mean, right?
There’s no predictable timeline or schema for how a major loss changes us since each such major experience and your particular relationship are unique, but there are broad patterns that can help to guide us.
It’s often said that the first two weeks are the roughest as the reality of your cherished friend’s physical absence sinks in. We tend to feel detached from our daily lives as we struggle to put one foot in front of the other. This is complicated by how our basic routines are disrupted without having our pet right there with us.
Eventually you begin to be present again to what is occurring around you without the constant pull of past memories about your departed friend, particularly the death itself.
As you move with the grief process, the quality of your heartbreak will likely soften. It’s not that it diminishes; it’s more that it evolves, transforms, and integrates into your new sense of self.
Here are 20 signs that you’re becoming reconciled to your loss…that you’re healing.
- Waves of distressing feelings aren’t as overwhelming or paralyzing and you’re able to ride them out without getting lost in them.
- You have fewer sudden flashes of panic, worry, irritability, blame, anger, guilt, jealousy, rage, worthlessness, or hostility.
- You release regrets about end-of-life decisions and actions, accepting that you did your best under difficult circumstances.
- Intrusive thoughts about the events leading up to your pet’s death and their final moments become left frequent.
- When others mention your pet, you don’t feel triggered and reactive, and can experience more pleasant than unpleasant feelings in response, most notably with less crying and deep sorrow.
- You don’t perceive yourself as a victim or resent others around you who seem happy.
- Your energy level increases as does your metal clarity.
- The focus of your thoughts shifts away from troubling moments and more toward fond memories and good times filled with love that you shared with your pet.
- You think more about your pet’s special qualities and distinct habits that you adored and make you smile.
- You make adjustments to your routines without your companion animal that feel comfortable and fit your rhythms.
- Basic activities such as sleeping, bathing, dressing, eating and exercise become more regular, healthy, and satisfying.
- You find yourself laughing spontaneously during new experiences and know your pet would be happy that you’re enjoying yourself, rather than you feeling guilty about being in good spirits or struggling with a sense of betrayal.
- Your interest in other favorite activities begins to rebound and you’re more inclined to spontaneously engage in them.
- When you’re socializing with your support network, you find yourself naturally talking about other topics without feeling a reflexive pull toward frequently mentioning the loss of the deceased and your grief.
- You are no longer distraught or envious when you see other people enjoying the company of their pets.
- You take pleasure in little things that catch your attention.
- You can envision life with your pet gone and accept that the world will continue to turn even without their loving physical presence.
- You recognize your grief as a source of wisdom, grace, and meaning.
- Despite enduring the significant pain and sorrow of your loss, you’re profoundly grateful for your bond with your pet and willing to lean toward opening your heart wider.
- You are hopeful about the future, pause for the beauty around you, and welcome other expressions of love into your world.
The transformative healing that's possible through the loss of your dear pet takes patience and effort, so be kind and gentle with yourself as you find your way— with heart, mind, body and spirit. Reach out to others and allow yourself to draw strength from their compassion.
It's important to acknowledge that if you find you're still consumed by intrusive thoughts and feelings after six months and are unable to function comfortably in your daily life, this prolonged grief deserves special attention. Be sure to reach out to your providers for their expertise in getting you the support you need.
Please note that RemembeRing content is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace professional care.
Take care! ~Emily