Grieving the loss of a pet? Some tips to help you through the heartache
To me there is nothing sadder than returning home from the vets with an empty carrier. Five days ago I found out that a furry family member had an inoperable cancer. Yesterday I made the call to put him to sleep. I’ve written this article in the midst of my own grief, to give you some tips for help and comfort if you are also grieving the loss of a pet:
1.Reach out to friends and family for comfort and nurture and to calm your nervous system – or in science nerd term: “limbic revision”
One of my closest friends came around to be with me, despite the drama playing out in her own life, and for that I am eternally grateful. Being with kind, caring people is going to help calm your nervous system because of a thing we call Limbic Revision. Our ability for empathy, to share deep emotional states with another human (or animal) comes from the limbic part of our brain (which is responsible for emotions and memories). Your nervous system does not exist in isolation, it is affected by those around you. So being around someone kind and nurturing literally rewires/remodels your neural pathways.
“Because mammals need relatedness for their neurophysiology to coalesce correctly, most of what makes a socially functioning human comes from connection – the shaping force of love.” Taken from “A General Theory of Love” – Thomas Lewis, M.D, Fari Amini, M.D. and Richard Lannon, M.D.
2. Ask for a hug
A 20 second hug is all it takes to release the hormone oxytocin into your system and you will feel a whole lot better. Find out why here.
3. Cry, sob, bawl – allow yourself to feel your emotions
I’ve taken to wearing big dark sunnies today so that I can let the tears roll down my face without people seeing (or so I think anyway!) The important thing is to let those emotions flow. Just look at the word itself: e-motion. Let the feelings flow. They just want to be felt and allowed to move through you.
4. Gentle movement for your body
I woke up this morning with a sense of heaviness in my body. I know that it’s from using back and shoulder muscles to sob, and from a general sense of sadness in my whole being. So I’m taking it easy with gentle movement – walking, stretching, yoga. Anything to gently ease the physical and emotional tension from my mind and body.
5. If you find you are not coping – talk to a counsellor
Grief is a normal process of loosing someone you love. It is different to depression. It is sadness. But sometimes we need a little help to grieve.
I am a somatic psychotherapist by trade and I help clients through grief and loss. Whether it is the end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one (human or furry). And I speak to my own therapist about my own grief. I walk the talk so that I can help you.
So whilst I am grieving the loss of my pet Simba, I will remember him in his finest hour, lying on the floor being stroked by three best friends, purring ecstatically as if to say “Yes, this is my best life!” Miss you buddy xx
If you want to ask me what Counselling or somatic psychotherapy is all about, I offer a FREE 15 minute discovery session by phone for new clients.