The holidays are always a busy time, with parties, extra food, presents to buy, and spending time shopping. The interesting thing about holidays is we have been fed an ideal vision of what they should feel and look like, and we compare all with memories of great holidays in our past. We hold a yardstick to our Christmas’s of the past, the people, the events, and if there have been losses, we feel those the most. Suffering a loss around the holidays is unbearable because it is supposed to be a happy time, and time to grieve is at a premium. It is hard to center yourself when you are supposed to be at Christmas parties, events, and school holiday programs. Memories are constant reminders of loss.
Even if your loss has come months before, it is always hard going through the first holidays without a loved one. A pet is a family member, so you will miss them being around the tree, dressing up for Christmas in their favorite sweater, the ski trip they accompanied you on. We have memories of better or at the very least different Christmas’s, and it doesn’t serve you to compare. But you still will. You also may not have the energy to do everything you usually do around the holidays, or you go through the motions, but you just don’t have the joy or enthusiasm you usually have. You might not be the one who is grieving or who has lost a family member. Someone in grief or missing their mojo can really be helped by just noticing and supporting them.
Despite the temptation, try to avoid cancelling the holidays. Make time to be alone, so you can remember and grieve, but don’t totally isolate yourself. Balance your solace time with structured social activities.
Remember to bond with other family members or fur kids. Your other pets are missing their lost loved one too, so give them extra attention to see how they are doing.
Remember that all family members have unique experiences with the loved lost one too. We each have unique ways in which we grieve too, each of us grieve in our own way. Don’t make anyone feel there is a right or wrong way to grieve. Some may still experience joy and laughter and be able to delay their grief. Don’t make things worse by judging others.
If I believe in anything, it is the belief that love is letting go of fear. It is based on the belief that to get yourself out of despair, looking at the abyss, being afraid of the future without your lost loved one when you get your focus off yourself, and you put it on others. When you engage in helping others, making their lives better, lovingly doing things for them without thinking of yourself, your emotions will lift. Consider helping at a shelter over the holidays or donating to the charity of your choice in your loved one’s memory. Adopt a needy family during the holidays or do something nice for someone you know is alone. It won’t bring your loved one back, but it will bring meaning into your life and make someone else feel good about themselves. Draw comfort from that.
-Create a memory box of the loved individual. Fill it with photos of them, have everyone in the family add their memories, sharing particular stories. When I lose a beloved pet, I always like to keep a locket of hair, their collar, a tag, a piece of their favorite bed or blanket or horseshoe. Younger children can add drawings;
--Plan a moment to include your pet’s favorite food or treat being remembered. With a nod to the Day of the Dead, a Mexican tradition on All Soul’s Day, where they create altars for their loved ones with the foods that they really enjoy;
-Write a poem or dedication to your loved one and read it during the family holiday time.
Remember, there is no right way to grieve, the best way is the way that supports you to get through the holiday with the least angst. Be gentle with yourself. If you always set aside a specific time to bond with your pet during the day, continue to set aside that time for self-care. The best coping method is to get support from others and to offer support to others. Don’t overload yourself with scheduled events but don’t isolate either. Take it easy, and if you can, find the joy that is your birthright. Remember, your loved one’s body died, but their spirit lives on. Love doesn’t die. It lives on in your heart. In fact, the love for your pet makes your heart bigger.
Ann Hoff is a well-known Animal Communicator, Intuitive Medium, and a regular contributor to our FB Group “I Am not Crazy Because I Talk to Animals” and leads a monthly Zoom call with members wishing to chat with a pet, or simply ask Ann a question. This month's content addresses the earthly lessons we learn through loss.
PetPerennials.com offers a range of cards and remembrances that you can send to someone you know dealing with loss this holiday season. If you can, call or write and spend a moment talking to the person about their loss. It will matter far more than you realize.