• April 30, 2018 /  Basics

    Dealing With the Death of Your Beloved Pet

    Most pet owners report that they see their animals as members of the family. They name them, celebrate their birthdays, pay expensive veterinary bills to help them, buy them gifts, and often feel that they get as much joy from them as they do from their human friends or family.

    For senior citizens, pets can take on a great significance – many of them feel that their pet is their primary companion; they are their family. As seniors age, so do their pets, and so many older adults face the stress of watching their pet fall ill or pass away. Though their lives are shorter on average than our own, their impact on our lives is no less meaningful than the relationships we hold with other people. If you’re struggling with the loss of a pet, you are not alone and you are not wrong for experiencing the deepest feelings of grief in these circumstances.

    Bearing in mind your capacity to love your pet, when a death occurs, it is without a doubt a traumatic experience. The grief reaction is actually healthy, though it can express itself in many difficult ways. You may experience some or all of these symptoms in varying degrees: lethargy, headaches, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep and insomnia, sadness, depression, regret, loneliness, anxiety, poor concentration, confusion, and guilt.

    Your feelings may be especially intense if you had to go through the heartbreaking choice of euthanizing your very sick companion. Dr. Mark Lawrie, president of the Australian Veterinary Association, says: “Yet this difficult choice is often the right one, particularly if your pet is in agonizing pain or the quality of life has deteriorated. Vets deal with this on a daily basis and often have to counsel owners in coming to terms with the death of their pet. People react in all sorts of different ways.”

    Bereavement counseling is becoming more popular because as a society, we’re now coming to terms with the fact that losing a companion animal can be as difficult as losing a family member. All too commonly, people feel they shouldn’t go through the same grieving process as for a human. But if you’re suffering, there is no shame in seeking help.

    To help cope with the loss of a pet, consider the following recommendations from grief support specialists:

    • Don’t be afraid to cry – Tears are a natural expression of your grief. Stifling them does a disservice to your emotional health.
    • Write notes to your pet – When you’re feeling your worst, write the words you’d like to say to your pet down in a note. This will help you to process the complex emotions of grieving.
    • Take care of yourself – Grief can cause us to lose sleep, eat poorly and miss our exercise routines. Taking care of yourself by maintaining your healthy habits leaves you better prepared to handle the grieving process.
    • Be kind to yourself – Take a walk outside, read a favorite book, or enjoy a relaxing hobby like gardening or knitting. Being kind to yourself is something positive you can do in memory of your pet.
    • Avoid unnecessary changes – Major changes in your life or daily routine will only add to your stress. If possible, save them for a time when you’ve had a chance to heal.

    It’s important to make time and space for the grief. Don’t hesitate to express your feelings openly, whether with a counselor, a close friend or family member, or even a journal. Healthy support is the key — talk to people you trust and who will empathize with your situation. What you need is to be heard.

    The early days will be hard going, but eventually you’ll move through the feelings and the intensity will diminish. And in time, you will remember your pet with happiness and affection rather than sadness and grief.

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  • April 18, 2018 /  Basics, Miscelleaneous

    How to Cope with the Death of a Spouse
    The death of your partner or spouse is a life-changing experience. Grieving the loss of a spouse or partner is about cherishing your memories of your loved one while remaining open to new experiences that may enrich your life.

    Have compassion for yourself. The loss of a partner or spouse is a traumatic event. Allow yourself to feel conflicting emotions. At times you may feel that you don’t have enough time to grieve your loss or take care of yourself. At other times, you may feel that you have too much time. You may feel as though you are going through many different losses at the same time, such as:

    • The loss of your loved one’s personality and uniqueness.
    • The loss of the role he or she had in your family.
    • The loss of the routines that were so much a part of your daily life.

    Rest assured that such feelings are a normal part of the grieving process.

    Get help with practical matters. You may be facing practical challenges, such as mounting bills or paperwork related to your partner’s death, along with new responsibilities. A family lawyer or other trusted advisor might be able to offer counsel and guidance.

    Seek support. Surround yourself with people who encourage you to be yourself and who recognize your feelings. Identify people whom you can depend on for support. These may include:

    • Family members and friends.
    • A spiritual leader.
    • Members of a support group for people who have lost a loved one.
    • A social worker or other professional counselor.

    Give it time. There is no timetable for grief. Although you will never stop missing your partner, as time passes your pain will ease and you will be able to go on with your life.

    Honor your loved one. Do something special to honor your partner’s memory. For example, you might consider:

    • Planting a tree or flowers in memory of your partner.
    • Enlarging a favorite photograph and displaying it in your home.
    • Setting aside regular time to simply think about your partner, or even listening to music or watching movies that you enjoyed together.

    Create a remembrance album or scrapbook. Photos of your partner can help you remember how he or she looked and the life you shared together. You’ll create something that you can turn to when your feelings are especially painful, or when you just want to dwell on all your happy experiences together.

    Keep a journal. Try to put your feelings and memories down on paper. Recall events and times that were important for the two of you. Think back to the tough times you helped each other through. Record your partner’s history and legacy by identifying:

    • Accomplishments he or she was most proud of
    • Places he or she loved
    • Favorite foods, songs, holidays, and family stories

    You will eventually redefine yourself, and your life.

    These are some of the many things you can do to cope with the death of your loved one, and grieve in a healthy way. You have gone from being a husband, wife or partner to a widow or widower. These words feel harsh and confining, and it’s difficult but critical to ensure that the new title doesn’t define you. As time passes, you will regain both your energy and your hope for the future.

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