2nd – 8th December 2019 marks National Grief Awareness Week in the UK, so we’ve asked pet bereavement support counsellor Carrie Ball to write a guest post about letting go of the pain of pet loss for us.
Why letting go of the pain, doesn’t mean letting go of those we love.
When we lose a beloved companion we are left with a void that it seems will never be filled. There is a pain and a longing. We may wonder what to do with ourselves. There is a gaping hole in our hearts that was once filled with the love and companionship our pets brought to us. How can we ever feel whole again when we have lost such a huge part of our lives? The pain it seems is all consuming, that it is here to stay and we shall never feel right again.
We struggle not only with the loss itself but more what this loss represents. The loss of the physical presence of our companions. Learning to live without seeing them every day. Realising that the memories and photos and videos are all we have left to remind us of them.
The pain can be like a dull ache in our chests, or a heavy weight that makes every day a struggle. We may feel that the pain is here to stay, and that we must feel like this in order to mourn and honour the memory of the one that we lost. Some people worry that if they let go of the pain that they will forget the one they loved. That the pain is necessary to remember them.
Letting go of the pain does not mean you will forget them. We will always remember them.
Write them a letter, keep a journal and write about your thoughts and feelings. Writing can be very therapeutic. Or speak to a Pet Bereavement Counsellor or The Blue Cross Bereavement Support Service. There is support out there, you don’t have to cope alone.
How can we possibly forget someone that brought us so much? We will have days when they are not on our minds all of the time and may feel guilty. But that doesn’t mean you have forgotten them. If you let go of the pain once ready you will be free to remember the happier times with the love those memories bring. The pain is necessary for healing but when we start to heal and the pain lessens the love is still there. Yes we will always have that ache, but it becomes easier to live with. The pain eases but the love never goes.
Guilt is a common feeling when grieving, but it doesn’t mean that the feeling is justified. We punish ourselves for things beyond our control. We hurt ourselves with thoughts of if only, what if and would have and could have. There may be feelings of guilt for smiling, for having a good day. For not being in tears or a state of sadness 24/7.
When you have a good day, when your thoughts are not on your loved ones passing, does this mean that you have forgotten them? Does it mean that their loss no longer matters to you?
Of course not. But it does mean that you are starting to heal. That the pain is lessening to a dull ache we can live with. The loss of our loved one will always have a part in our day to day, there will always be a moment when we think of them and what they would be doing at that moment. But we can still smile and even laugh and continue our days and it doesn’t mean that we love or miss them any less.
One thing I tell my clients is that every day they live is a day for making memories, and for living for their loved one. They live on in us, in our hearts. They are with us in everything we do and wherever we go. We are learning to live without their physical presence and that is what hurts. The not seeing them in front of us or beside us. It is this that we may struggle with. But once we realise that our loved ones are around us in some way we feel a little better, and then one day we can think of them without the lump in our throats and the pricking of our eyes.
Pain is felt to show and remind us of the depth of the love and the absence of the one we love. But it isn’t necessary to hold onto it.
There is a quote from a Facebook page called Sweatpants & Coffee that I absolutely love.
‘It’s okay. You don’t have to honor the memory by holding on so tightly to the pain. The love remains. You won’t forget. Promise’
Carrie Ball is a pet bereavement counsellor with over 18 years experience offering bespoke support sessions. She also has pet bereavement support, information and blogs available on her website.