Create a self-care plan for emotional wellbeing during pet loss

Create a self-care plan for emotional wellbeing during pet loss

Your feelings are likely to run amok in the aftermath of the death of a loved animal companion. Sadness, loneliness, confusion, anger, and even fear may visit you in turn – or simultaneously. The important thing to remember is that these feelings, as in all situations, aren’t right or wrong. They are simply the normal responses to the trauma of pet loss.

After my kitties passed away, my emotional state was a bit like a roller coaster. One moment I'd be giggling at a funny memory, the next I'd be engulfed in deep mourning, and a few minutes later I'd feel a profound sense of guilt over things left undone or unsaid. I therapist friend of mind told me that grief has a life of it's own, and that definitely was true for me. While I understood that this was all part of the journey, it was good to be reminded that my experience was normal! Yours is too.

The key to healing is to NOT stifle your emotional reactions to the grief associated with pet loss. Not only is it unhealthy to do so, stuffing down your emotional responses will inevitably only lead to more pain. This is your opportunity to grow through an incredibly painful experience. Consider it a challenge to achieve personal transformation, and thereby turn your pain into something more beautiful. (Challenge accepted!)

The following is a brief introduction in how to care for yourself - emotionally - while journeying down the path of pet loss. We stress a self-care plan that includes physical health, too - it’s important to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, participate in regular exercise, resist junk food, and so on. But for now, we want to talk about how to care for your heart, your mind, and your spirit.

Emotional Health Pet Loss Tiny Pet Memories

Productive Ways to Respond to the Emotional Stress of Pet Loss Grief

Having a solid self-care plan to carry you through the grieving process can be incredibly helpful. If you know the end is near, and you have the luxury of time to plan for the inevitable, do so. Put the self-care tools you’ll need in place before you need them. After all, when you’re grieving, it can be extremely difficult to think clearly through the fog of pain. But if time is not on your side and you’ve been met by a sudden tragedy, then take these ideas for wellness activities in stride as you have the emotional energy.

  • Take Time for Yourself: When you feel up to doing so, give yourself some time to engage in your favourite hobbies and activities. A walk in nature is a great place to start. Or set aside an afternoon each week to unplug the phone and be by yourself while you listen to music that fits you rmood.
  • Let Family and Friends Know How They Can Help: You need to be upfront in terms of what you need from your loved ones in your time of grief. They won’t know what you need because they cannot read your mind. Educate them and guide them with clear ideas for what will benefit you the most.
  • Be Gentle With Yourself: Grief is hard work. Don’t expect too much from yourself too soon. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to properly grieve.
  • Journal: Getting your feelings down on paper is an ideal strategy for processing your grief. You’ll immediately feel your stress level decrease.
  • Do Something Creative: Indulging your creative instincts is another great way to restore your emotional wellbeing. Create a memory box, design a printed photo album memorializing your pet’s life, or put together your videos and images into a memorial slide show. Doing so will improve your ability to concentrate on positive things.
  • Feed Your Spiritual Side: Engaging in meditation or prayer and participating in the activities of your spiritual community are good ways to care for your emotional needs. You’ll feel more connected with your pet and the world at large by doing so.
  • Seek Counseling if Necessary: If you can’t seem to find relief from your sadness and anxiety, seek the help of a mental health professional. Get whatever type of support you need to heal.
  • Forget About To-Do Lists: Instead, make lists of what’s been done and encourage yourself by contemplating how you’re feeling as you process your emotions.

I've needed to rely on most of these elements to keep myself moving during this period of bereavement. I think therapy and creativity have been the two most helpful, but exercise has also been huge. So I hope as you create your own emotional self-care plan, they'll be useful for you and pet loss grief and find emotional wellbeing. Be sure to tell me about any other tools you've used to gain back your equilibrium after losing your favourite animal friend. I know I can use all the help I can get!


Images: Jiří Wagner, Aaron Burden

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Health Disclaimer: I’m passionate about wellbeing and health but I’m not a medical professional, nor am I a licensed therapist. Any content you read on this site is intended for inspiration and for information only – by not means am I providing medical advice. Please consult your certified professional for personalized recommendations on the mental health or physical health ideas I write about.

Sometimes the experience of losing a cherished animal companion puts a larger burden on our mental health than we can handle alone. Finding a therapist who can support you in your pet loss may be just the boost you need to make the experience an enriching and meaningful one. Know when to find one with these guidelines.