Why Are the Holidays So Hard While Grieving a Pet?

Anyone who has lost a pet knows that it is like losing a member of the family, but they may not understand why certain times of the year can be harder on someone who is dealing with the recent passing of a pet. It’s natural to feel grief when a beloved pet is no longer a part of our life, but it seems like that feeling is intensified during the holiday and New Year season. Here we’ll discuss why that is, as well as providing some actionable advice on how to deal with grief.

The holidays are a time for family

The most obvious reason is going to be that holiday time is when we traditionally get together with our friends and family and share memories. Whenever a family member has passed, there is always the feeling that the family is not quite complete. The team at Flemish Giant Rabbit point out that people have a need for support that is strongest during the holidays. These times are meant to be spent with family, and if some family is not present, then that can make the holidays much harder to bear. There is already a lot of stress at that time of year, and grief can add to that.

There is a hole left by the loss

If a family member is not present during holiday activities, then that absence can be clearly felt by those who were closest to that member. There is also the feeling of nostalgia, or a longing for past days, and it can’t quite be satisfied without that missing family member.

Perhaps, you have pleasant memories of what you did during the holidays with your pet, and it is normal to feel like something is missing when you engage in those same activities without the pet or you avoid those activities altogether. “

Acknowledge your grief

It can help to identify that you are grieving. You may be told to have a “Happy Holidays” or to just try to put on a smile for your family, but it’s very possible you won’t feel like doing so. You don’t have to be happy for anyone else’s sake, because if you do, you are unlikely to process your grief naturally and completely.

You should realize your state of grieving and try to get time to deal with it. You may need time away from family members or time away from the busyness of the holidays in order to do that. Plan for some personal time to help you work through your grief, and the holidays will become a lot more tolerable.

It’s normal to want personal time when you are feeling sad, and the holidays don’t always allow for that, but if you make that time on purpose, you will be much better off for it.

Golden retriever sniffing holiday wreath.

It’s okay to share your feelings

Another reason why the grieving process is so difficult to handle during the holidays is because everyone expects everyone else to be happy and full of cheer. They don’t expect people to share their grief at this time, and while it may not be socially acceptable, your friends will understand if you want to talk about your feelings and your loss. The team at grief.com advise that “This can help you to cope, and it can help them to better understand where you are at emotionally. It may not be the most pleasant thing to do during the holidays, but sharing your grief will help you to get on the other side of it to some degree and maybe have time to get some joy out of the holidays afterwards.”

You’ll want to be appropriate with where and how you share your feelings, though. There are suitable moments for that sort of thing, and you have to know when it is the right time to talk about loss and grief and when you should simply let others enjoy their holidays. It’s best to take the time to share when it is just you and another friend alone or when it is a small circle of friends together. Your grief sharing will be most effective at these times as well.

Final thoughts

If you notice that you are struggling during the holidays, then you’ll want to get some help or some time alone to deal with the grief. Your feelings about the loss of your pet are authentic, and they need to be treated as such.

Melissa Kauffman, Catster & Dogster magazine editor

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