Dealing with Pet Loss Over the Holidays

It is the most wonderful time of the year but you may not be feeling very wonderful inside. This is normal for those who are grieving the loss of a pet. Whether it was recent or many years ago, the holidays have a way of reminding us of our loved ones who have passed on as we try to move through the season without them. The pain may be magnified if the loss occurred close to the holidays or if this is the first year facing the season without them.


Grief is a very personal and individual experience. Grief may manifest itself in different feelings such as denial, anger, guilt, depression, and eventually acceptance and resolution. However, we don’t move through the predetermined stages of grief in order, and emerge on the other side. Every loss is different, and every journey through grief is a unique experience. Even years after a loss, a sight, a sound, or a special anniversary can spark memories that trigger a strong sense of grief.

It’s important for the bereaved to know that all such behavior is normal and necessary to find healing and a new kind of normal in their lives. Finding out what helps you most and allowing time to exercise your emotions is essential, especially this time of the year. Wherever you are on your journey, whether you are facing the potential loss of a pet or have had to say goodbye already, keep the following in mind.

You should expect to feel sadness and pain. Though others may be insisting you cheer up and have a good time, you may find it impossible.  Allow yourself to feel these feelings and don’t try to cover them up with busyness or fake merriment. You don’t have to feel ashamed or afraid to cry as tears are an important part of the healing process.

Take some time to plan ahead on how you will spend the holidays. With so much hustle and bustle this time of year, it can be easy to over do it. Try to schedule some quiet time to be alone and reflect between the holiday parties and shopping sprees. If you must decline from attending some of your favorite activities, try not to be too hard on yourself. Remember that any time out taken is in honor of your precious pet which is a worthy cause. Do not accept every invitation or bury yourself in work to keep busy and avoid thinking about it as this can prolong the process and make it more difficult.

Take care of yourself. This may seem contrary to the spirit of giving that marks this time of year, but it holds true that if you are not filling yourself up first, you will not have anything to give to others. Do not drown your sorrows in Christmas cookies but try to set healthy limits on treats and desserts. Eating protein rich foods with good fats along with wholesome fruits, veggies and nuts, etc, will keep your energy steady and help battle depression. Exercise is a great antidepressant and it’s free! Try to go the extra mile whenever possible from an extra day at the gym to parking at the end of the lot and jogging in when out running errands. Allow yourself to say no to hosting special gatherings if you simply don’t feel up to it.  If being out among holiday shoppers seems overwhelming to you this year, take advantage of shopping online.

Find a way to remember your pet this holiday. Place a candle next to a photo of your pet in a special place in your home and light it during significant times during the holidays to symbolize the love that you shared with your pet. Hang photo frame ornaments with your pet’s picture on your tree. Share  memories with family members and friends who knew your pet during holiday gatherings.  This may bring tears, but it may also bring laughter, and it will make your lost pet a part of the celebrations. Make a donation in your pet’s memory to a charity that is meaningful to you.  Maybe it could be the shelter or rescue group your pet came from.  Maybe there’s a group that does research into the illness that took your pet’s life.

Remember that sometimes, the anticipation of how awful the holidays are going to be without your loved one can be harder than the actual holidays.  And as much as the bereaved dread the holidays, sometimes, the aftermath of the holidays can bring even more sadness than the actual holidays themselves, so be aware and prepare yourself for this.

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