The Healing Journey
Don’t let your grief become the main focus of your existence. It’s important to move through the grieving journey so that your grief can soften over time and go on with your life. Be proactive about finding ways to bring joy back into your life and doing things you enjoy. Allowing yourself to have fun or relax doesn’t mean you miss your pet any less. It only means that you are taking care of yourself through your heartache, and that’s healthy.
Guilt can keep you stuck in the grief journey and prevent you from moving through your grief, so Day By Day has some suggestions to help you work through and allow your grief to soften over time.
Signs you are beginning to heal
Healing takes place one day at a time. When your grief eases and softens, it does not mean that you love your lost pet any less. You will always love and remember your departed pet. When healing takes place, you allow yourself to go on with your life and can even experience personal growth as an outcome from your grief and loss. You can feel joy again in your new normal.
Should you get another pet?
When to adopt a new pet after, or even before, a much-loved companion has died is a dilemma for many people. It may help to consider the following:
- Try not to rush into decisions until you have time to sort out your feelings. Well-meaning family, friends, and even veterinary professionals may suggest a new animal as a means of comfort and support.
- Examine your motivation to get a new pet. Be mindful of “replacing” the one that died. If you compare your new pet with the memories of your deceased pet, you may be disappointed. Even if animals are the same breed, each is very different. It is important to consider the needs, behaviors, and lifestyle of a new animal and how they may differ from those of the animal who died.
- Another pet may help you heal. For some people, the companionship of a new pet may be comforting during this difficult time.
- Grieve the loss of your beloved pet. Some people are not able to bond with a new pet right away. The desire to adopt a new animal immediately following the death of pet can be driven by the need to avoid the pain of grief. Giving yourself time to first heal from the loss may help you to welcome a new pet with open arms.
- Check in with the entire family. Be sure everyone is ready to commit to the new relationship. The time frame may be different for everyone. Bringing a new pet into the family before all members are ready can hurt or offend someone by implying that the pet’s death is relatively insignificant. Children may perceive a message that loved ones are easily replaced.
- Consider becoming a “foster parent.” By fostering an animal through a local animal rescue group, you’ll provide temporary housing for an orphaned pet that is awaiting permanent adoption. You’ll provide a necessary service while testing your own readiness without a long-term commitment. If the fostered animal fits well into your life, permanent adoption could be an option.
- If you feel you have moved through your grief and want to open yourself again to a new relationship, your heart is probably telling you that you are ready. For some, there is no better medicine for a hurting heart than the love of another pet, while for others the best medicine is time. Whoever you are, only you know what is best for you.
Reprinted with permission from The Argus Institute, Colorado State University.