When you are grieving do you share your grief with people? I don’t mean the people who are your close family and friends, (even though that is also a choice), I mean the people who interact with you during the course of your day.
Every time you talk about something you activate it. The energy expands. When I have been going through some hard spots in my life, it was easier to go about my day without mentioning what was going on in my personal life. It made work seem like an oasis of calm and respite from the chaos of loss that was at home. Yet there were times when the energy of my grief was overwhelming, and I would break down. Someone innocently asking: “How are you?” sincerely with feeling in their voice could make me a blubbering mess. However, I was working and wanted to stay professional. When I responded to someone: “My cat died” the person would look at me like I was not wired together too tight- to be such a wreck over a cat.
Not everyone understands how deep a connection you can have with an animal. When you are grieving isn’t the time to educate someone about the fact that many people have a deeper connection with their pet than they ever have had with a human. It is a little better these days than it was twenty years ago, but many are still clueless about the amazing bond that is possible. You cannot be positive that people will “get it” that you are devastated by the loss of a pet. On top of that, it isn’t always possible to contain your grief and stay composed.
My recommendations first of all are that you are gentle with yourself. You do not owe anyone an explanation. Take the time to grieve before or after work and give yourself a break if the emotions come to the surface- perhaps go into the bathroom, take a walk around the building you are in or go for a short drive. I have sat in my car and sobbed until I was okay again. Make sure that you bring support materials to compose yourself, like tissue, touch up make-up, water, maybe your favorite candy or treat (sugar does up your dopamine level).
I know people who are afraid to cry because they think if they start, they will never stop. I know from experience, that is not true. A few minutes of blubbering in the bathroom or car and the waterworks will stop. If you feel comfortable enough with the people you are with to cry in front of them, you still don’t have to tell them that your pet has died. You can be very cryptic, and just say: “I’m going through a hard time right now.” If they ask more, simply say that it is complicated, and you’d rather not discuss it. If that doesn’t feel right to you, think up something that does.
The thing to remember is to have the words ready to talk about your loss of composure if it happens with someone that you’d rather not share any more than necessary with. This will help you keep it together and make it through the day. Decide in advance who you want to share your loss and grief with, and how much you want to share. Remember this is your choice, you don’t owe anything to anyone but your loved one on the other side and yourself. Having conversations on whether it’s “okay” to be upset about a pets’ death doesn’t serve you when you are in your period of mourning.
Meanwhile, I am sure there are friends and family you have that you do share your loss with. Having a ceremony for your pet, a celebration of life, a memorial together, whatever you feel would honor the life that the two of you had together. Or, if your family is spread out, just talking to them on the phone may help. Even then, some people aren’t good with strong emotion, and that isn’t their fault, it is just the way they have dealt with life. When I called my father that my horse had died of colic, crying as hard as I ever had, he simply said, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you’. After that, I knew I had to go to others for emotional support when a death happened. Most of all, I realized that I needed to be there for myself and my other four legged. Which means doing whatever helps us all get through the period of mourning and forward to your new normal.
Know someone dealing with pet loss?