Losing your beloved pet is never easy, but there’s something about having to say goodbye during the holidays that makes it even harder. For many, the holidays are a time for good cheer, spending time with family, and making happy memories. But getting through the holidays if your pet has passed can be a struggle.
Five Tips for Facing the Holidays After Pet Loss
If this is your first holiday after losing your pet, it’s especially difficult. Friends and family will likely try to make you feel better by saying things like, “You can get another dog,” or “At least they’re no longer suffering.”
These phrases affect people differently, and they could make you feel worse. But remember, your loved ones aren’t dismissing your feelings, they’re simply trying to find a way to help you through your sadness, even if it isn’t always the right approach. Therefore, it’s okay if you need to take some time for yourself after the loss of your pet.
Use these tips to help work through your feelings to find the best way to deal with your grief. Although it’s never easy, as each holiday passes, and you learn better ways to cope with your pet’s passing, you’ll start finding joy again. And it’s vital to remember that finding joy doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten your precious pet.
1. Talk About the Loss With Others
One of the first things people tell you when you experience a difficult time in your life is to talk about it. However, it’s important to carefully consider who you’re talking to.
If you know people who have also lost a pet, they may better understand what you’re going through. However, even those who haven’t lost a pet are still capable of offering an empathetic ear.
If you’re unsure who to talk to, call one of several pet loss hotlines, including the ASPCA’s National Pet Loss Hotline (877-474-3310). The biggest takeaway is to talk about your grief and connect with others to avoid feeling like you must carry these emotions by yourself.
2. Don’t Just Remember Your Pet’s Final Moments
If your pet is sick or you had to make the difficult decision to put your pet to sleep, it’s easy to dwell on the final moments and replay them over and over again in your mind. But don’t let your pet’s final moments determine how you remember them forever. After all, these moments were only a small sliver of their entire life.
Focus on the happy times with your pet, the first day you brought them home, their favorite toy, their quirky behaviors, and how they made you feel. Think about how your dog dragged the trash out and spread it all over the kitchen floor. Remember how shocked you were when you came home to discover your cat had disemboweled the couch cushions.
3. Boost Your Self-Care
Make yourself a priority when you’re grieving. Of course, self-care should always be your main focus, but it’s something we all struggle to prioritize.
But taking care of yourself while grieving is essential. Don’t neglect the basics, like good nutrition, exercise, and proper sleep. Take time to do things you enjoy that make you feel relaxed and keep up with your regular healthcare.
4. Volunteer at an Animal Shelter
Giving back to others is another way you can cope with losing a pet during the holidays. Volunteering can help with loneliness and improve your physical well-being.
When you’re doing something for someone else, it helps put you in touch with the bigger picture. It makes you feel good, and on a basic level, it offers some distraction as you begin working through the grieving process.
Visit local animal shelters and ask about volunteer opportunities. Shelters often undergo a strain this time of year, taking in more pets and dealing with limited resources and staff. Helping out benefits them and you.
5. Allow Yourself to Grieve Like You Need
Everyone grieves differently, so don’t let anyone tell you how you’re supposed to grieve or when you should be “over it.” Say no if you need to, whether it’s about hosting the latest holiday dinner or attending a festive party.
Talking to others is vital, but it doesn’t mean you need to surround yourself with people 24/7 during the holidays. Sometimes, you need to be alone to cry it out and think through your thoughts.
Five Sweet Ways to Honor Your Deceased Pet During the Holidays
Another way to cope with pet loss during the holidays (and any time of year) is to find special ways to honor your pet’s memory. Here are a few ideas to help you remember your faithful friend.
1. Create a Special Pet Keepsake
Make or purchase a holiday keepsake to remember your pet each year as you put out your decorations. It could be a special ornament with their picture, a memory box with their favorite toy, or an embroidered stocking.
2. Make a Donation to a Shelter or Animal Rescue in Your Pet’s Honor
Each year during the holidays, make a donation to your local animal shelter or pet rescue. If you adopted your pet from a certain shelter, you may choose to make your donations to this facility.
When your pet passes, you may decide to keep some of their belongings and donate other gently-used items. Donate things like leashes, grooming supplies, and food bowls to a shelter or foster pet parent.
3. Hang a Picture of Your Pet and Take Turns Sharing Memorable Moments
When you decorate for the holiday season, include a special picture of your pet that you display in a prominent place. When you celebrate with friends and family, make a tradition of taking a few moments to share favorite memories of your pet.
4. Plant a Pet Memorial Garden or Flower
The first holiday after losing your dog or cat, plant a garden or flower in their honor. Tend to it and care for it throughout the year, and each holiday, add something to it.
If you’re planting a garden, you could add another flower or plant. If it’s a potted plant, you could paint something on the pot and add to the artwork each holiday.
5. Consider Fostering a Pet During the Holidays
A common thing for people to suggest to those grieving from pet loss is to get another dog or cat. However, this is not always the best solution. Many people coping with a pet’s death are not ready to begin a new relationship.
If you’re not ready to welcome a new furry family member, consider fostering a pet during the holidays. It’s an excellent way to give back, but you won’t feel like you’re replacing your pet if you’re not ready for a permanent relationship. Reach out to your local shelters or try organizations like Best Friends Animal Society to find foster opportunities near you.
Keep Your Pet’s Spirit Alive During the Holidays and All Year Long
Dealing with pet loss is heartbreaking no matter when it happens, but it hits especially hard during the holidays. Take the time to grieve how you need to grieve, talk with others instead of isolating yourself, and remember the good times with your pet.
Remember to take care of yourself, create new holiday traditions that help honor your pet, and explore ways to give back to others. Volunteering at a pet shelter or fostering a dog or cat are excellent ways to help animals in need during a typically busy time of year for animal rescues.
Losing your pet doesn’t mean you need to forget them. Faithful pets inevitably cross the Rainbow Bridge, but gone never means forgotten.
For more useful tips and information about caring for your pets, check out the rest of the Neater Pets blog.