Tag Archives: The Grief Recovery Method®

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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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Forgiveness (The Other “F” Word)

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Forgiveness, the other “F” word, is one of the recovery components from unresolved grief. We know we have to do it but it’s so darn hard. We find all the reasons we can to NOT forgive. We convince ourselves that forgiveness is “crazy talk”. But….he did this. But….she said that. It would be WRONG to forgive. We place ourselves in our own unforgiving universe just because we don’t want to deal with it or worse yet, we don’t want to let go of “being right”. We think it is easier to stay angry or hold a grudge.  But is it really?

Think of what it does to your body walking around in perpetual state of anger or resentment all the time. It’s like always being in a fight or flight mode. Our bodies weren’t meant to operate that way. Staying on guard against a threat eventually wears down the body’s natural defenses. After awhile, we end up with physical symptoms ranging anywhere from headaches to heart attacks. Why would anyone chose to do this to themselves?

What we tend to forget is that forgiveness is about us not the other person. You are not focusing on “being right” no matter what. You are not condoning someone’s behavior. You are trying to better understand what they may have been through. You are trying to “let go” so your own heart, soul, mind and body can be free.

FORGIVING YOURSELF

Before even attempting to forgive anyone else, we should make sure that we are at peace with ourselves. This is often harder to do than forgiving someone else. Why is that? First of all we are our own worst critics. We place high expectations on ourselves and if we don’t meet them we are the first ones to send ourself a barrage of criticism. That voice inside our head starts to nag us for being less than perfect. But we aren’t perfect. We were never meant to be perfect. We have to stop being so hard on ourselves. We have to accept that we are human and will continue to make mistakes. We have to accept in our hearts this is okay. Carrying around resentment and anger against ourselves just hurts us and no one else.

FORGIVING OTHERS

The Grief Recovery Method® shows us what to do to forgive:

Take Action – Forgiveness is an action not a feeling. Once you taken the action to forgive, your feelings will follow. For many, the very act of forgiving feels like a huge weight being lifted off their shoulders. For others, it brings the walls down they have built around their heart.

Don’t forgive someone in person – Since you are forgiving to heal yourself, the person being forgiven need never know it has happened. If you try to forgive someone in person, especially if they don’t think they did or said anything wrong, they may perceive it as a personal attack. It could provoke a new issue that could create even more incompleteness in your own life. As a result, it is suggested you never forgive someone in person.

Don’t ask for forgiveness – Asking for forgiveness is really making an apology. If you feel the need to say something directly to another person, make it in the form of an apology. Although you may have been hurt by the other person, that does not eliminate the need to make an apology for what you may or may not have done to them. Apologizing helps you to be complete.

WHAT TO SAY

“I forgive you so I can be free.” – Forgiveness is about you not the other person. This statement helps to remind you that forgiving is helping to set you free from the emotional baggage caused by anger and resentment.

“I forgive you so I don’t keep holding onto anger.” – Do you really want to carry that resentment and anger around with you forever? This statement is another way of saying I am taking care of me and this is what is important.

“I acknowledge the things you did/didn’t do that hurt hurt me and I am not going to let the memories of those incidents hurt me anymore.”  Sometimes a person creates a situation in your life that is almost impossible to forgive. This may be  especially true when rape, abuse or domestic violence are involved. Instead of forgiving the person, you can forgive to let go of the memories or incidents so they no longer cause you pain. This is another way of setting yourself free so you can move forward.

FORGIVENESS MEDITATION

I know for some people just thinking about forgiveness may not be enough. In those instances, writing your thoughts down in a journal or having some sort of “ceremony”  might be more beneficial for you. Here is a short forgiveness mediation you can try using any type of candle you have around the house:

In a quiet place, light a candle.

Take a few deep breaths and relax.

Think of the person you want to forgive standing on the other side of the candle.

Look into the flame of the candle. The flame represents truth, love and kindness. Visualize the negative energy you are holding onto going into the candle’s flame. When it reaches the flame it turns into beautiful white light.

Mentally move this white light into the other person.

Now say, “I forgive you.” (Say this as many times as feels right).

After forgiving the other person wrap yourself in the white light to wash away any leftover traces of resentment or anger.

Thank yourself for having the courage to forgive.

Take a few deep breaths and relax.

You can also use this meditation for self-forgiveness. Just visualize yourself, instead of someone else, standing on the other side of the candle.

Marianne Williamson writes: “Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” Here is a video of Marianne talking about forgiveness on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!

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