Image by Phan Minh Cuong An/Pixabay
Losing a member of the family, whether human or furry, is undoubtedly a difficult experience. As we navigate through our own grief, it's important to remember that our animal companions can also be profoundly affected by the loss.
In this article, we'll explore how to provide comfort to our pets during times of loss and change. Supporting animals through loss, especially in the home, is rewarding to the grieving humans as well.
1. Recognizing the Signs of Grief in Animals
Animals experience grief in their own unique ways. While they may not express it in the same manner as humans, there are signs to watch for:
Changes in eating habits
Withdrawal from usual activities
Increased need for attention
Changes in sleep patterns
Searching for the lost individual
2. Maintaining Routine and Familiarity
Animals find comfort in routine and familiarity. During times of loss, try to stick to their regular schedule as much as possible. This includes feeding times, walks, play sessions, and sleep routines. A sense of stability can be helped through consistency during uncertain times.
3. Providing Extra Attention and Affection
Your animal companion might seek extra attention and affection during times of loss. Offer gentle petting, cuddling, and playtime to let them know they're loved and not alone. Your presence can be incredibly reassuring to them.
I recommend talking to your animal companions about how you’re feeling, too. Sometimes, we try to keep our own feelings “zipped up” as a courtesy for them. However, it is likely that your animal companion wants you to be yourself and share your feelings. Energetically, this might help normalize and validate the difficulties or confusion for your animal companion.
4. Creating a Comforting Environment
Make sure your pet's environment remains soothing. Create a cozy space with their favorite toys, blankets, and bedding. Make a big deal about this space for your animal companion. Encourage your fuzzy family member that this is their special space, just for them. This safe haven can offer them a sense of security while they cope with the changes.
5. Practicing Patience
Grief takes time to heal, both for humans and animals. Be patient with your pet's emotional journey. You’re likely on one, too, so try to be as gentle and loving to yourself as you are with your animal companion. Understand that they might exhibit changes in behavior for a while, but with time and support, they will gradually adjust. Remember, you are in this together!
6. Maintaining Health and Wellness
Ensure your pet continues to receive proper healthcare and nutrition. Grief can sometimes affect appetite and physical health, so monitor their well-being closely and consult a veterinarian if necessary. If you're able to take a short 20 minute walk most days, it can benefit you and your animal companion to "move through"what you're experiencing.
7. Engaging in Low-Stress Activities
Engaging your furry familiar in low-stress activities like gentle walks, interactive toys, or easy games can help distract them from their grief and bring moments of joy.
8. Seeking Professional Help
If your pet's grief seems to be severe or prolonged, consider seeking guidance from a professional animal behaviorist or veterinarian. They can offer advice tailored to your pet's specific needs. Animal reiki can also be a powerful tool for working with animals who are adapting to a loss in the home.
9. Take Good Care of You
In addition to the other suggestions in this guide, one of the best ways we can support our animal companions through any change is by centering ourselves. If things feel very wonky for you, set timers to remind you to drink water and eat nourishing meals. If you meditate or practice grounding visualizations, this can put you and your animal companion in a more easeful state.
During times of loss, it's important to remember that our animal companions rely on us for guidance, comfort, and stability. By recognizing their unique ways of grieving and offering them love, routine, and a supportive environment, we can help them navigate the challenges of loss and change alongside us.