Since my best friend died this past winter – a golden retriever named Chevy – I have had an enormous amount of grief. I really miss him and am wondering how long this grief will last. People say I should just get over it and get a new dog to replace him. That seems so cruel to just replace my companion I’ve had for so long. Can you help me with this struggle?
At a Loss
Dear At a Loss,
I’m sorry for the loss of your best friend – that is never an easy thing. Many people find that when they are ready, talking about their deceased pet will help work through some of the painful emotions associated with death and loss. Being in a group that discusses loss might be a possible way of doing this in a safe, controlled environment. Not only might you feel better with people who understand you, but you might also get ideas and suggestions about how you can appropriately memorialize your special pet. Check your local area for pet loss support groups.
Despite the fact that some people don’t understand the strong bond that pets and humans can develop, I hope that you realize what you are going through is normal and the pain you are feeling is a very common reaction – it is grief. It is also common for people to want to ‘cheer you up’ and help you move through your pain because they want the ‘old you’ back. They are not comfortable in just being present with you in your time of grief which might be the best gift they could offer you at this time. Grief can be a struggle. Everyone is different and needs to work through the process of grieving their beloved pets at their own speed. There are no set stages to go through. You might experience many different emotions with some moments making you feel like you are on top of the world and in complete control, while the next minute it feels like the world is pressing heavily down on you. You may want to write some of your feelings down and keep track of how your emotions fluctuate and if there is any pattern. Perhaps there are certain times of the day that are harder than others. Plan to be around other people during these times so that you can feel adequately supported. Also during this intense time of grief, you might want to practice the following:
1. Avoid making any big decisions
2. Create structure and purpose in your day by getting into a routine
3. Reach out to other people daily through phone calls and in person
4. Get exercise on a daily basis
If ever you feel that the grief is too much for you to handle, always remember to talk to a counsellor, crisis line or physician about your feelings in order to get immediate help and support. You do not have to go through this alone.
24-Hour Crisis Line: 403.266.HELP (4357)
“Temple bells stop but the sound keeps coming out in the flowers.” Basho