So here’s the situation. You’re heartbroken because you’ve just had to put your treasured animal companion to sleep. People around you send their initial words of sympathy, but after a week or so, the general expectation from co-workers and friends is that you should be moving on, that you should be over it.
“Are you thinking of getting a puppy?” someone might ask. “Have you visited a shelter to look for a new one?”
This seems to be an acceptable question because animals are looked at as replaceable, while the death of a family member or friend is taken more seriously because you can’t go out and rescue a new uncle. But why?
In many cases our animals are often closer to us then extended family members. We see our furry ones every day. Some of us even cuddle with them at night. They are there for us, when other human company fails us, and yet their passing is often looked at with a shrug and a frown, but not taken seriously.
And so we grieve the loss. It’s tough to suddenly be without this being that helped shape the course of your day. How many of us have been in the routine of walking the dog in the morning and or evening? How many of us curl up with the cat and watch a movie with a cup of tea on cold evenings? How would that sudden change not leave us feeling upended?
I have literally had clients tell me that they were more upset over the loss of their animal friend then they were over the loss of a person who had not been such an integral part of their lives.
We humans love sameness and routine. It makes us feel safe. When the loss of a presence that is important to our daily routine and feeling of well-being occurs, it’s a really big deal.
Ok, so what do you do? How do you heal your broken heart? The first thing you do is fully own how rotten and hurt you feel. Cry if you need to, pound on pillows, scream in the car with the windows rolled up, so as not to frighten anyone. Bottom line: express the painful feelings that are consuming you. By the way, this will probably need to happen more than once. Grief is a process not a one time event.
Once the intensity of the initial shock has calmed, you need to do some processing with a safe person. Talking about painful feelings to someone who is a great listener can be very therapeutic. Again, this will probably need to happen more than once.
Many people find it helpful to journal as a way to express their pain, confusion, anger and sadness. Remember, grief isn’t an emotion. It's a compendium of feeling states that includes a wide variety of emotions.
Finally, in the case of the loss of your animal friend, resist the urge to go out and get another one right away. You need to heal your broken heart before it can successfully let another being in. An unhealed heart is a guarded heart, it is not an open, trusting heart. You may get a replacement for your deceased animal but if it’s too soon, you will be hard-pressed to give them the love they deserve. This isn’t good for you or the new animal friend.
Allow yourself to honestly express what you are feeling for as long as you are feeling it. That is one of the best ways to grieve productively. You don’t get points for getting over it quickly and it can actually be damaging to try to look more healed than you are. Grief can produce growth, depth, wisdom and appreciation, if you allow yourself authenticity and give yourself the time and healing experiences you need.
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PAULA SHAW, CADC, DCEP is an author, Energy Psychology specialist, therapist, speaker, Reiki Master and Grief Counselor. For more than 20 years, Paula has been passionate about empowering people who are dealing with profound loss, so they can reap something truly beautiful from their pain. She also helps clients who are going through major life transitions or seeking freedom from self-destructive addictions. She has degrees in Education and Communications from Long Beach State University, as well as graduate counseling credentials from Loyola Marymount University. She is one of the founding members of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology and currently serves on its board of directors. Paula is the author of Chakras, the Magnificent Seven (2002), as well as "Grief...When Will This Pain Ever End?" Finding Your Way out of the Pit of Despair After Profound Loss.
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Thank you for reading Paula's Blog. Because our site moved in June, we were unable to transfer all of our blog posts over. You can however, read the rest of them by visiting our old blog site. HERE