At the time of this writing, Tia has been gone for #### days, ## hours, and ## minutes. I know this because of the count-up timer app we’ve been using.
My husband and I were with Tia for every moment of her last day. We were able to hold her and comfort her in those final hours and moments as she passed away naturally. When she took her last breath, my husband had the presence of mind to note the exact moment. Being the techie he is, he quickly found this T-Zero Coundown Timer app (there is no specific pet app for this purpose) and plugged in the data. Using the app in the count-up mode, I’m now able to note how long it’s been since Tia left us whenever I want to do so.
How I Use My Count-up Timer To Track The Milestones Following Tia’s Death
One of the primary ways we now use the T-Zero app is to mark the moment of her death every day: 10:22 pm. I have a reminder set on my phone for 3 minutes prior to that time (10.19), which gives me a few moments to prepare. Wherever I am, I get to a place of quiet and solitude and sit, watching the timer, as that time-mark passes. We usually spend the time in silence, but somethings we chat and remember.
There’s a bit more to it than that, and so I’ve put together some tips on how to use a count-up timer to create memorable ways of marking various milestones in your pet loss griefwork process - and follow along to the end to get a free printable to help you implement these ideas in your life, too:
Replacing old rituals with new.
More than likely, you have developed rituals in your daily routine around your animal companion. Whether it was taking your dog for a walk or eating breakfast with your cat on your lap, the loss of that routine can be traumatic. Creating new routines centred around remembering your pet can provide a touchpoint that anchors you while you’re floating around in grief.
Tracking your progress.
By checking in with yourself every day or at regular intervals, you can keep tabs on where you’re at in the stages of grief. Reflecting on which emotions – disbelief, yearning, anger, depression, acceptance – is the most prominent at any given stage is a way for you to develop your emotional intelligence. It will also give you the awareness you need to make adjustments in your life (if required) to better cope with how you’re feeling.
Honouring your lost pet.
For me, ritualizing a time of remembrance – daily at first – has been one way for me to honour Tia’s presence in my life. Taking the time to be silent and reflect on good memories (and bad) allowed me to say in my heart, “I have not forgotten you.”
I really want to use the time I spend contemplating Tia’s life in mindful ways. In other words, I want to be aware of what I’m feeling and thinking, to deal with and acknowledge my emotions intentionally, and to move through them rather than deny them. A writer for a cancer grief support group came up with a nice little way to use the word “milestone” which I find helpful when taking my daily memorial pauses. I’ve modified them somewhat to suit my cat loss purposes:
I – Imagine. Activate your imagination to think about what your pet would be doing right now if he or she were with you. How would they most enjoy time with you in this moment?
L – Love. Remember that unwavering affection your pet had for you? Hold it close to your heart.
E – Express. Don’t be afraid to let your emotions out. Whether you want to smile at a happy memory or weep at your loss, be free to express how you feel.
S – Savour. Put your mind to remembering all of the ways your dog or cat blessed your life and express your gratitude in a journal or out loud to someone else in the room.
T – Take care. Be your own healer by taking control of your wellbeing while mourning a pet loss. Think about how you could find healing in this moment and act on your idea.
O – Open. Remind yourself to be open to others. You may be surprised to find many animal loving kindred spirits within your existing circle of friends, but you may only know if you speak up.
N – Note. Mindfulness practitioners suggest that it’s important to develop the habit of noting our feelings and our experiences. Take this opportunity to note things like: burning pain, tightness in my head, emptiness in my abdomen, joy in thinking, laughter.
E – Eat and exercise. We all know how important it is to take are of our bodies during times of grief. Take a quick moment to think about whether you’re neglecting your health and what habits you should adjust.
If you'd like to set aside some time on a regular basis to mark an important milestone in your pet grief journey using this technique, I've created a free printable you can use to do so. Use the form below to get your own version. Let me know how it goes.
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