Tag Archives: Grief

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Losing A Beloved Pet

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Words can’t describe how it feels to lose a pet. For many, a furry friend is a beloved member of their family. For others, their pet is the only family they have. Often when a pet passes away, people resort to incorrect mechanisms to deal with the grief. Sometimes they even attempt to replace the pet immediately. Unfortunately, there is little effective guidance for grieving pet owners. As a result, many pet grievers either isolate themselves or pretend like “everything is fine” for fear of being judged or criticized – especially by non-pet owners.

Another problem is that friends and family don’t know what to say to someone who lost their pet. Oftentimes they resort to statements that are not helpful at all to the griever like:

“It was only a dog (cat, fish, lizard, etc).”

“Don’t feel bad you can always get another dog (cat, fish, lizard, etc).”

“Just give it time and you won’t remember your dog (cat, fish, lizard, etc) anymore.”

In fact these statements are not useful at all. They are almost cruel. They actually break a grieving pet owner’s heart into a million more pieces. This is why many grieving pet owners often choose not to share their pain with anyone. Non-pet owners just wouldn’t understand the special bond they shared with their pet. They wouldn’t understand the feeling of unconditional love they received on a daily basis. It’s just too hard to explain so pet grievers find it easier to just bottle it up inside.

My first real experience with the death of a pet was when I was about 11 years old.  We were living in England and had “adopted” a local cat and her kittens who were wandering around our neighborhood. One of the kittens was completely black. I fell in love with him. I called him Blackie. Blackie went everywhere with me. He had a collar and a leash and we would walk around the neighborhood, go to the park, and ride together in the car. We were inseparable. Then one day my parents told me that Blackie was sick and wasn’t going to get better. Not get better? How was that possible? He was just a kitten and hadn’t even gone through one of his nine lives yet. This couldn’t be happening. I had no idea he was sick. I was completely devastated.

After my parents told me Blackie was going to die, I remember sitting with him in the living room. I just held him while the saddest song from the Disney movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” played on the record player. I played that song over and over again. I just held Blackie  while listening to the sad music. I cried and cried. I didn’t understand how he got sick or why he was sick (my parents told me he had feline leukemia). The next day he was gone. I just knew my heart was broken.

Here is the song “Hushabye Mountain” I played to Blackie over and over again (Note: This is more proof that time doesn’t heal grief because I cried just like I was 11 years old again while posting this video):

The heartbreak and pain stuck with me for a long time. Having other cats around didn’t make it easier. In fact it didn’t help. It just made me miss him even more. The others cats weren’t my Blackie. Blackie was my cat. Blackie was my best friend. I could talk to him about everything. My school. My sister. My parents. My friends. He listened and just cuddled up to me as if to say it would all be okay. I felt so alone.

Now that I think about it, I am glad I allowed myself to openly grieve for Blackie. From what I can remember, my family was supportive. They didn’t make me feel like I was doing something wrong or that I needed to get over it. They let me play Hushabye Mountain over and over again. I am very thankful for this because their support helped set the stage for how I would face loss and grief over the years.

Here are some things we need to keep in mind when losing a pet:

  • In any household in which a pet has died, it is important to remember that each family member will have a different reaction to the loss. Each relationship to the pet was unique, so each person’s grief will be unique to them. This needs to be respected and honored. Never compare your reaction to that of another family member.
  • Talk openly and honestly about the loss. Trying to hide your feelings will only make it confusing – especially if you have children.
  • Don’t turn to short-term energy relieving behaviors (STERBs) – anger, alcohol, drugs, shopping, etc.- to deal with the loss. These only make you feel better for a little while and don’t help you to “complete” the relationship you had with your pet – i.e. face your grief.
  • Remember that although your pet is no longer here physically, we continue to have an emotional and spiritual relationship with them.  These aspects of the relationship need to be “complete” so memories of your pet don’t turn painful.
  • Being in pain over the death of your pet is not an expression of love. Completing what was left unfinished (especially if your pet died tragically – hit by a car, etc.), will get you out of the pain. You will still have sad and happy memories, but those memories will no longer turn painful.
  • Never use the word “guilt” or say that you “feel guilty.” Guilt implies intent to harm, and most pet owners would never do anything maliciously to harm their pet. A better descriptor would be “unresolved grief” – things you wish you had or hadn’t done with your pet. Unresolved grief is very different from guilt.
  • Think of those things you wish you could apologize for (“I am sorry I yelled at you when I got home from a bad day at work”), forgive (“I forgive you for ripping up my favorite pair of shoes”) or wished you had said to your pet (“I loved how you used to greet me when I came home. It was the best feeling in the world”).

If you are having a difficult time, you are not alone. The Grief Recovery Method®, through their Grief Recovery Handbook for Pet Loss, offers a structured action plan to help grieving pet owners discover and complete what was left emotionally unfinished and ultimately, have fond memories of your beloved pet not turn painful.

Click for the Grief Recovery Webinar: Dealing with the Death of Our Cherished Animal Companions

The webinar will:

  • Help you become aware of any grief-related myths that may be keeping you stuck in your grief.
  • Guide you to look at the pet losses that have affected your life, and see if they are still limiting you.
  • Encourage you to take actions to complete what is left emotionally unfinished for you.

Bottom line, grieve for your furry friend. Be sad. Remember the time you spent with them. Hold them in your heart forever.

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!


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Helping Children With Grief

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How can we better help children with grief? As a society we haven’t done a very good job. We encourage children to express joy when they are happy; but we discourage them from expressing their sadness when they are unhappy. These mixed messages have contributed to most of us growing into adults who try to cover up our heartbreak. We walk around pretending we are okay; or worse yet, we turn to short term energy-relieving behaviors (like alcohol, drugs, shopping, anger, etc.) to “numb the pain.” These behaviors do little to help address our grief in the long run.

MOST COMMON CHILDHOOD LOSSES 

The Grief Recovery Method® lists the following as the most common losses experienced by a child:

Death of a pet

Death of a grandparent

Major move

Divorce of parents

Death of a parent

How can we better help our children grow into adults who can deal with these losses? It may be hard for many of us to change, but our children need us to take the lead when it comes to loss. We have to learn to replace our old behaviors with new ones when it comes to grief. This means we need to look long and hard about how we deal with and react to loss in our own lives. If we can do that, our children have more of chance of being successful in their own lives. The book When Children Grieve states, “Establishing a foundation for effectively dealing with loss can be one of the greatest gifts you give you child.”

WAYS TO HELP A GRIEVING CHILD

Here are six ways you can help a child who is grieving:

Allow all emotions to be expressed, without judgment, criticism, or analysis.

Avoid the trap of asking a child what is wrong since he or she will automatically say, “Nothing.”

Adults – Go first. Telling the truth about your own grief will make your child feel safe in opening up about his or her own feelings.

Remember the reaction a child has is unique to them. If you have more than one child, respect that each of their reactions will probably be different.

Acknowledge your child’s emotions before addressing the facts.  Listen with your heart and not your head. If your child brings up the same issue over and over again, it means they are not being heard.

Make sure your verbal and non-verbal communications match. Children may respond incorrectly to their loss if they feel you are teaching them to “do as I say, not as I do.”

Our children look up to us. They tend to do as we do. It’s important that as adults, we communicate accurately about our emotions so that our children can see, copy and learn. Helping them will ensure they can more effectively deal with grief and loss events throughout their lives.

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!


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Book Review: Widowed & Widowed 2 by John Polo

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I was honored to be asked by author John Polo to review his books Widowed and Widowed 2. John, also known as the Better Not Bitter Widower is a widower, step-Dad, author, public speaker, and Hope & Empowerment Coach.

John met Michelle as a teenager, and they fell in love. Eight years after their high school romance, they reunited and planned to spend the rest of their lives together, alongside her amazing daughter. Two short years later, Michelle was diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer. She died at the the very young age of 30.

As John picked up the pieces of his broken heart and devastated soul, something amazing happened. He discovered a deep passion for writing and speaking about love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment and hope. His goal is to help others both honor their pain and see that a hopeful tomorrow can indeed exist.

His book Widowed. Rants, Raves and Randoms was released in 2017; a year after Michelle’s death. His second book, Widowed 2. Now I Live. was released in 2019.

BOOK DESCRIPTIONS

Widowed chronicles the immediate aftermath of John’s beloved wife Michelle’s death. He shares his thoughts, feelings, and as he calls it, his “rants, raves and randoms” about how her death impacted his life especially their future hopes and dreams. 

Widowed 2 chronicles what John is experiencing two years after Michelle’s death. Although he is still mourning, John writes about how he is moving through the pain to find a sense of hope again. It is this hope which has propelled him into helping others who are dealing with similar losses. 

Better Not Bitter WidowerMY REVIEW

Widowed and Widowed 2 are not your average grief and loss books. This is a good thing and is what makes them stand-out. Each book is a raw, soul-filled, and often humorous tribute by a deeply grieving husband to the love of his life. From the very first page, John Polo immediately draws you into the life he was living shortly after his wife’s death. Using a unique approach and diverse writing style, John shares his intimate thoughts and feelings through personal stories, anecdotes, poetry, quotes, diatribes and hashtags. You feel the love. You feel the pain. You feel the emptiness. You feel the descending darkness. But you also feel the joy. The laughter. The compassion. The hope. The light at the end of the tunnel. The promise of the future that is still to be. 

Some of my favorites quotes from Widowed include: 

“We CAN grieve as we move forward. We CAN move forward as we grieve. The two ideas are NOT mutually exclusive. They can walk hand and hand.” (Page 34)

“From this point on, every time someone asks you your emergency contact, you are going to want to cry.” (Page 53)

“PSA: Shut. Up. Everything happens for a reason.” (Page 120)

Some of my favorites quotes from Widowed 2 include: 

“I loved her my way. I will grieve her my way. My way.” (Page 43)

“Sometimes the grieving want company, And, sometimes, they want to be left alone. The truth is, we almost always want the invite. Where does everyone go?” (Page 67)

“I feel cheated. We were robbed of our 50 years together. I feel lucky. I got to call the love of my life ‘my wife.’ I feel cheated and I feel lucky. I feel both.” (Page 164)

After reading these wonderful books, all I can say to John is:

– #your #words #moved #me

– #you #are #not #weird #you #are #amazing

– #thank #you #for #sharing #Michelle #with #us

– #you #done #good #my #friend #you #done #good

OTHER REVIEWS

– “This book made me cry so hard, and then laugh even harder. Have Kleenex ready and go pee before you start. Because you won’t want to put it down.”  Amazon Review

– “This book is wonderful, and very different than other books out there on grief and the loss of a spouse. The writing is simply raw, visceral, direct, and very real. I found myself nodding my head as I read John’s words, with so many memories of my late husband flooding back into my mind. John’s reflections on the experience of being widowed are spot on. The font changes and random thoughts he included reminded me of the way so much of life felt so random in the early days, like how you could be knocked to the ground by a song or something else triggering a memory. This book is unique and very special. I know I will go back to it again & again. Well done, John Polo!” Amazon Review

– “I lost my husband and have read several grief books. This one is different. It is not full of just fluff words. It gets to the point in the first pages. It’s raw, painful, letting you know that you are not alone in those crazy, painful feelings that overtake you in such a loss. It’s profound. John Polo can say in two sentences what others take two chapters to say. It’s funny because yes, we widows/(ers) seem to find humor in some of the darkest places. This is my go-to book and now I’m eagerly awaiting is second book. His website also lets you know all the other things he does, seminars, life coaching, etc.” Amazon Review

HOW TO ORDER

Widower and Widower 2 are available on the Better Not Bitter Widower website and on Amazon.

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!


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