Hi, I’m Colleen Ellis, founder of Two Hearts Pet Loss Center. Today, I want to discuss the emotions we experience during the holidays after losing a beloved pet. The heightened emotions of the season can make us acutely aware of the absence of our furry companions. I won’t offer a magical solution to make your holidays instantly happy, but I aim to provide permission to navigate this time authentically.
It’s crucial to acknowledge that your grief journey is unique, and wherever you are in it is valid. Be kind to yourself during the holidays, recognizing that it might bring up intense emotions, especially if this is your first holiday without your pet.
I want to offer mindful and intentional practices to help you honor your pet’s memory. It’s normal to experience “grief bursts,” moments when emotions resurface intensely. Allow yourself the space to grieve and, if needed, engage in activities that bring comfort and healing. Consider forgiving yourself and asking for forgiveness as part of your holiday self-care.
Let’s anchor our discussion with some definitions. Grief is the internal emotional response to loss, while mourning is the outward expression of grief. Actively mourning, or engaging in mourning work, is essential for healing. Rather than trying to “get over” grief, we aim to navigate through it, actively processing emotions.
Finally, I want to highlight empathy—a vital component of understanding and supporting others who may be going through a similar experience. As you navigate the holidays, find meaningful ways to honor your pet’s memory, such as volunteering at a shelter or creating a personal tribute. Remember, what matters most is what brings you comfort and healing during this time.
I want to talk to you about empathy. It’s important to be empathetic, not just towards others but also towards yourself, especially during the holidays. Empathy involves acknowledging shared experiences and supporting each other. It’s about saying, “I’ve been there too, and we can navigate this together.”
When faced with grief, whether due to the loss of a loved one or a pet, it’s crucial to give yourself permission to feel the pain. Understand that the holiday season might bring up intense emotions. Be empathetic to your own struggles and don’t hesitate to take a break or say no to social functions if needed.
Grieving for a pet, especially during the holidays, can be challenging. People may not fully comprehend the depth of this loss. You might encounter opinions on how to handle it, but remember, you have the right to do what feels best for you. Whether it’s creating a special space for your pet’s memory or deciding not to put up certain decorations, give yourself permission to honor your feelings.
As significant days approach, plan for the emotions you might experience. If it’s your pet’s birthday, for instance, anticipate the mix of emotions and plan activities that bring solace. Embrace the grief when it comes, allowing yourself moments to reflect and remember.
Gift of Healing During the Holidays
Consider the gift of healing for yourself during the holidays. Acknowledge any unresolved grief and work through it. Pet loss can manifest in various ways, from euthanasia to rehoming, and it’s essential to be mindful of these different experiences. Plan for emotional days, honor rituals that bring comfort, and find meaningful ways to channel your emotions, such as donating to shelters or rescue groups.
Ultimately, be kind to yourself and grant the permission to navigate grief in a way that fosters healing and honors the memories of your loved ones.
I’d tell my friends at Hollywood Feed, “I’m leaving enough money for 40 bones. Do what you need with it. I want it to be yours.” Consider honoring our sweet animal’s life by donating time, talent, or treasure. Set boundaries during the holiday hustle, control what’s manageable, and be mindful of emotions. Some days may be tough; it’s okay. Don’t dim the light of the love shared.
Reflect on the gifts animals gave us: presence, unconditional love, loyalty, forgiveness. Help others or pets, dedicating actions to your lost pet. Share your broken heart with someone empathetic. Set expectations: “I just need you to listen, not fix it. Can you do that for me?” Allow yourself to grieve and be supported in your journey.
I need those tears sometimes. I might tell a friend, “I need to share my broken heart with you. Just listen and be comfortable with my tears. Don’t fix it or take it away; just be with me.” If someone confides in me, I’d hold their hand, not try to fix it, and encourage them to share memories.
Give yourself permission to be, slow down, and grieve. Live in the moment, embracing both sadness and happiness. Remember the gift of presence, honor, and cherish the time shared with a lost pet. Breathe and allow yourself to move on, prioritizing self-care in the holiday hustle.