Sunday, December 23, 2012

Guest Post | Pet Loss and the Holidays - A Message of Empowerment

Written by Marybeth Haines
Photo: / imagerymajestic
The time of Christmas, New Years and the holiday season often bring feelings of remembrance and reminiscence.  This is a time where we take a look back on the years gone by to reflect many memories.

For fellow pet lovers, the holidays are also a time where we can feel mixed emotions for our furry friends and family who are no longer with us.  Animal connection with humankind has been in existence since before recorded history.  As time progressed and as animals became domesticated to what we know them as today as our pets, many loving relationships have been formed.  It is no wonder why we feel the connection and bond so strongly.

It has been scientifically proven that pets contribute with many benefits to us such as lowering blood pressure, decreasing cholesterol, increasing self esteem, decreasing anxiety and depression.  

The simple act of stroking a pet provides our nervous system with the message of calmness.  The laughter we have when watching a pet do something funny is one of nature’s best medicines.

I’d like to share with you 3 strategies that you can use as tools of support with feelings of grief and loss over the holidays.

1.  Recognition

Recognize that what you are feeling is real.  You are not alone and there is support available.  The acknowledgement of sadness, sorrow, anger and other emotions is key in healing.   Your feelings are validated and are okay to feel.    

At times with social stigma, pet loss may be looked upon in a different category than with what societal standards would label otherwise.  Some people have commented that “it’s only a pet” and perhaps it’s time to “get over it”.  

When it comes to true grief and loss, this takes time.  Sometimes it’s a short period of time and other’s a longer one.  The important thing to focus on here is how YOU are feeling.  Your feelings are what are important.  There is no difference between an animal, a person or an object.  When a meaningful attachment has been removed, the emotional connection remains the same regardless. 

Photo courtesy of / Theeradech Sanin
When it comes to healing from the death of a pet, often times we may tend to downplay what we are feeling and we often keep the mourning to ourselves.  Grieving a pet is not only normal, it’s natural.  At the workplace, usual standards dictate an allowance of three days bereavement leave upon the death of an immediate family member.  After the three days have passed, you are expected to return to work and continue on as normal.

The grieving process takes much longer than 3 days and we have become accustomed by society to move on quickly.  Grieving takes time and this gift of recognition provides us the opportunity to allow healing to take place.  This is the very first step in the healing process.

2. Support

Surround yourself with a supportive environment.  Having loved ones such as family members and friends that are supportive to you is something that can provide a safe place for healing.  

If your immediate surroundings are not conducive to a supportive environment, connecting to a support group or online community is available to you.  There are many pet loving organizations and populations that come together in support of one another in the love of animals.  These are like minded people who have also experienced grief and loss and many of them are currently experiencing it.  By surrounding yourself with this embrace of support, you will find there is something that can be of great assistance during this time.  

The Power of Pets ( is an online growing community who unite together and celebrate our pets both past and present.  We recognize the many gifts we receive from our pets and messages of inspiration are posted daily.  We also focus on memorial tributes and how our pets have given us many rewards.  We share our thoughts and feelings and all postings are welcome.  This is just one example of an online resource available to you.

Photo courtesy of / artemisphoto
Giving yourself the permission to grieve AND to heal is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself.  Be kind to yourself, allow acceptance of what you feel and give to yourself the gift of self love.  And most importantly, support yourself right here, right now.   

Always remember, if you feel anger, sadness, frustration or depression, to honour that within you and know that those feelings are happening for a reason.  You are grieving and emotions are a message to us and provide the opportunity to release and move forward in the way that we desire in our healing journeys.  Give yourself the permission to honour YOU and your healing process.  This is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.

3. Giving Back

The saying “what goes around comes around” is most certainly true.  When we give, we receive.  And when we do this with the intention of love and goodness, it becomes a continuous circle of rewards.  The time you have spent with your pet contains many gifts; unconditional love, laughter, friendship, safety and companionship.  The essences of all these gifts remain with us and can be moved forward in memory.

Your pet is pure love.  And the giving they present to you contains infinite and unlimited abundance.  During the time of grieving, sometimes giving back can help in many ways.  It keeps you busy, it occupies your mind and over and above all else, it gives the gift of helping another.

There are many ways to give back in the memory of your pet.  Here is a list of some of these ways:

-        Make a donation:  A donation of time to a local shelter organization.  A simple act of love to an animal in a shelter is worth gold.  A monetary donation in the name and memory of your beloved pet can be wonderful ways of having their memory live on in helping others.  Lastly, the donation of items such as bedding, toys and food can be helpful.  Shelters are looking for these items every day.  Many also accept Canadian Tire money as donations.

Photo courtesy of / Suwit Ritjaroon
-        Plant new life: Plant a tree or plant a seed for new growth to bloom in memory of your pet.  As that tree or plant grow and blooms, so will the love of your pet’s memory.  As the cycle of growth continues with that tree or plant, you will see how you grow too as you continue to heal.

Giving provides an outlet for healing.  Although these things do not bring our pets back to us, they are a way of honouring our pet’s love and devotion; a way of giving back to them.  It is also a way of honouring your time together and allowing the essence of the memories to live on in a positive way.  Giving back is an empowering way and a wonderful gift you can give to both yourself and your pet.
In conclusion, my message I wish to convey is that during any time, even times of sadness, many life gifts can be received.  And grief can be transformed into healing when you choose to approach these feelings in an empowering way. 

The beautiful thing about this is that your time together with your pet is now part of recorded history.  It has happened; it’s now in the history books.  That is something that can never, ever be taken away. 

When you feel sadness, may these gifts bring you comfort in knowing that the love you share will always remain.  

If you come to feel sadness this holiday season, I invite you to take a real close look for the many gifts that are there from your pet.  They are there waiting for you in the energetic form of love living on in their memory. 

I believe that pets are angels with whiskers and tails instead of wings.  Their gifts of many surround us every day.  And that in itself is something to celebrate!

Author Bio:

For over 20 years, grief consultant Marybeth Haines has gathered a wealth of knowledge and experience from her training in social services, crisis prevention intervention and grief counselling.  Her focus on enhancing the quality of life for her clients has always been at the forefront of her work.

Marybeth’s specialized focus is providing support in pet bereavement and the senior pet.  She holds the strong belief that pets can teach people many things about life and so can the grief association with the loss of a pet.  The pain of such a loss can be debilitating for many people.  They can recover and Marybeth’s passion is helping them move beyond loss.  Her work focuses on practical yet simple strategies for coping during this difficult time.

Image courtesy of Marybeth Haines
Marybeth’s newest book; The Power of Pets – 7 Effective Tools For Healing From Pet Loss is currently being published and is set to be released in 2013.

In this book, she will share with you the reasons for your grief and how you can turn that grief into healing.  She will walk with you as you take each step on your healing journey; show you the stages of grief and how you can create a compassionate environment that is supportive to you.

And most importantly, Marybeth will share with you how you can take action and make things happen so you can reach your healing destination.

Visit to reserve a FREE copy of The Power of Pets.


  1. What a wonderful and insightful post! :-) The holidays are always a time of reflection and memories, so inevitably those we have lost are close to our hearts! I know I will be thinking of Baby on Christmas, with a smile on my face and a laugh in my heart!

    1. Good for you guys! I will be thinking of my Kitty Kitty Meow Meow!

  2. great post Ann!maybe everybody should have a speedy!,xx Rachel

  3. Ditto Goose. Have a super Sunday and hope all is well.
    Best wishes Molly

  4. I love this post! Especially the section about giving back. I like the idea of focusing on something that does good and lasts. Beautiful.

  5. Wonderful post...And yes lately I have been thinking about my beautiful dogs that are no longer with me...Each one, with their unique personality, added so much to my life

  6. Great post.Thankfully furry friend wise I don't have any furry friends or humans that have passed away during christmas, but I can imagine how it can suddenly do a 360 on a holiday that is supposed to be happy and full of joy!

  7. Great post. We keep thinking about the loss of our cat, especially my young daughter. Always a tough time of year for that!

    1. Sorry to hear about your kitty... mine also passed away a few months ago. I think Christmas may have been her favorite time of year!

  8. Beautiful post and so very true!


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