Pet Loss How to Help Heal depression and Grief Over the Holidays l Coping with Pet Death l Brent Atwater Animal Medium

Pet Loss how to Heal Depression & Grief 
over the Holidays

Pet Loss - How to Help Heal Your Heart Over the Holidays

"Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again." – Sarah Ban Breathnach

Holidays are somewhat bittersweet for most people.  However, in relation to grief, this season can be quite dreadful.  Pet loss, in particular is a disenfranchised loss. Meaning that form of loss is not particularly recognized and the grieving individual often feels misunderstood (Walsh, 2012).  When we lose someone close to us and it is not acknowledged or validated, we often suppress our emotions, and adopt the “suck it up” attitude.  When we adopt the "suck it up" mode it's referred to as “complicated grief.”  The  issue with complicated grief, is that it is so misunderstood… that the APA (American Psychological Association) could not agree on the criteria for a diagnosis of complicated grief in the 2013 Edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual). 

The understanding of this "complicated grief" process by both the pet parent and  bereavement counselor is imperative to healing.

There are several pioneers in the “grief and loss” world.  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross made us aware of the 5 stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. 

Kubler-Ross’ research was primarily geared toward terminally ill individuals and their process of embracing crossing over.  These processes were never intended for the grieving survivors.  However, her process has been adapted as the 5 stages we all need to evolve through in order to heal our hearts.  Below are tools to help you every day and especially through the Holidays.
Allow yourself to experience the feelings of sadness. This is not to say that you should quit your job, draw the blinds and sit in the deepest of your sadness. Just acknowledge what you are experiencing.  
1.   Many individuals set a specific time frame in which they can allow themselves to fully experience the grief process.  Once that time frame has expired, try to grow forward to resume your normal routine.

2.   Create a new Holiday tradition to honor your furry family member. Some people will create a new stocking or will start a story telling tradition about the fur family member that has crossed. Doing this is a therapeutic 2-fold pay off.  It creates a venue to openly express (even if only with yourself) memories, emotions, laughter and the spectrum of emotional health.  Secondarily, it helps make the loss real and inherently provides a means of reflection.

3.   Most important: Be gentle with yourself.  We cannot control the situations we experience; however, we can control how we respond to them.  Being kind to yourself is allowing you to do what you need to do in order to heal.   If you have a perceived moment of weakness,  honor it and acknowledge it is healing.  You must give yourself permission to feel and experience the process in order to feel better and move forward. 

4.   Lastly, remember that you are not alone.  Even if not in your immediate friend base, there are many communities of individuals who will support you  and “who get it.”  There are people in your daily lives that also get it.  Seek those that support you, you are worth it!
You deserve to be heard and cared for!


The grief process is difficult.  There is no definite time when you wake up and suddenly are at peace.  The process of losing a pet is complicated and requires you, first and foremost to be gentle and loving with yourself. There is no set timeframe to heal.  Surround yourself with  individuals who understand your experiences so you don't feel alone.  Then you can be supported and validated as you travel on your healing journey. And perhaps in the future, you can be there for someone else.

Contributed by Heather M. Scarboro M.A.Ed.
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Kumar, S.M., (2005). Grieving Mindfully: A Compassionate and Spiritual Guide to Coping with Loss.  Canada:  New Harbinger Publications.
Walsh, K.  (2012). Grief and Loss:  Theories and Skills for the Helping Professions.  New York: NY, Pearson. 

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Brent Atwater
Animal Medium
Pet Communication that Heals your Heart