Care for the Caregiver (you!)

How will I get over the loss of my best friend? We in AHELP have come to know that you don’t get OVER a loss; you get THROUGH your loss…

We commonly hear, "what can I do to feel better?" In this post we offer a few practical tips that can be "a Help" to you and your family during the hospice period and after their passing.



A ceremony at your companion's favorite spot can be a valuable in helping you get closure after their passing. Michelle Nichols and her daughter Zoe sprinkle Sora's cremains at the beach she had loved. (Photo: Chris Nichols)

How will I get over the loss of my best friend?

You know that feeling: the deep pain in your chest…the choked up feeling to fight back your tears...thoughts that you can still hear the sound of his steps…the desire to stroke her fur. These are very natural ways to feel after the death of your animal companion. We’ve all been there, many of us time and again, and this is part of the deal since we unfortunately outlive our unconditionally loving, constant companions.  But most of us become impatient with the process when others say, and many of us feel that, “I need to get on with my life.”

You don’t get OVER a loss; you get THROUGH your loss…

The ease with which you get through this important bereavement period will be a determinant in healing from this and all future losses. That’s where end-of-life home caregiving – Animal Hospice—comes in. This approach gives you time to orchestrate a comfortable, peaceful and dignified end-of-life experience. You feel empowered to proceed with a planned euthanasia once you feel the appropriate time comes, or else your friend lives out his or her lives under your loving, hospice-supported care.

Caregivers like you want to do more for their beloved animal companions, and animal hospice gives them the means to do so.

What can I do to feel better?

Eat right, sleep right, exercise, and seek moments to center yourself. Spend your time resting, and restore your vitality. Consider meditation. Visualize your animal companion both with you and also on their own, and in the surroundings where they are now content and complete. This can be very illuminating and even restorative; some even believe meditation like this can assist a being in their transition process. If you have another animal still with you here, take your healthy dog on an uplifting walk or spend quality time loving on your cat. They are grieving the loss of their friend, too.

Be gentle with yourself and allow time for bereavement. Explain to friends and family that you are still sad and honoring his or her memory. Be honest with the co-workers and acquaintances who might expect you to get back into routine. Clear your schedule to do your "grief work", and be clear to others on why you must. If they don’t understand, then consider: is the further energy it would take to seek their support worthy of my time now? Use those reserves sparingly!

Recreate a routine that prioritizes your well-functioning self. It's natural to feel like there is a hole in your life where your companion and caregiving activities once were. Distill your life down to it’s component parts and evaluate how you would like to build it back up again. Seek clarity. Why is each activity is important to you? Consider the importance of relationships with certain others and wait awhile to reconnect with those who weren't the most supportive in your caregiving efforts.

Consider the the power of ritual in your healing process. As you prepare for the end of their journey with you here, consider making a handmade decorated casket, choose a blanket and items to go inside. Look to the internet where you will find that there is a remembrance item for everyone’s taste. Ideas include: beautiful urns, a piece of jewelry that includes a lock of hair, or artwork that includes cremains. To memorialize your companion’s life, you might create a tribute table using items such as photos, a food bowl, favorite toys, a collar and tag, a halter or bridle. Some choose to keep it decorated with flowers or to use a soothing aroma there like lavender or frankincense oil. Go to a location you both once enjoyed and have a ceremony. Especially if your excursion involves driving, consider inviting others to escort you. In a ceremony the possibilities are endless: recite a poem or prose...say a few words from the heart...sprinkle flowers or some cremains (depending upon location).... This is part of the journey also, so do take pictures that you would find comforting as you reminisce on this time. 

Surround yourself with unconditionally supportive people. They may be your beloved friends and family –OR—they may not. Consider community resources like those typically called Pet Loss Support Groups an offered through your local publically funded animal shelters. AHELP’s Animal Caregiver Support Circle is monthly on second Sundays at Seattle Unity Church and on second Wednesdays at Natural Pet Pantry in Kirkland. Our Circle welcomes caregivers who are caring for their animals who are ill, approaching end-of-life, and healing from the passing of their beloved animal companion. Our Circle is facilitated by professionals and those trained in pet loss counseling. For questions, please contact AHELP Lead Facilitator, co-founder and spiritual counselor, Diane Dyer.

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