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Coping With The Holidays

Guest Guest_mokie_*

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Guest Guest_mokie_*

hello again. its been 3 weeks since i had to have my cat smokey put to sleep. for those of you who don't know she was 22 years old. its been very hard dealing with her loss. i'm still depressed about it and with the holidays coming makes it even more depressing for me.

i lost my parents both around the holidays. my mom actually died on her birthday nov 29th...4 years ago. my dad passed dec 30th. 6 years ago. so now with loosing my life long kitty makes it very hard to be upbeat.

i don't expect everyone to know what its like loosing both parents and now my cat around the holidays but was wondering if anyone has dealt with something like this too. i know everyone says to get together with family and friends and do something fun. i'm not much for getting together with other people anyways and when your single it makes it more lonely. i do live with my sister but still its depressing. and i do have 3 other cats and 2 dogs which helps some. but when they are all setting around waiting for attention i get sad because smokey isn't there.

i have all these emotions still going on since loosing mokie and there are still days i just want to end my life to stop the pain. i feel like i'm going crazy sometimes greifing over a cat. but she was my cat for 22 years. ever since she was 8 weeks old. so i think i have a right to be sad. if i sound mad its becasue i am! i get mad at my self for feeling like this but i still can't help it.

do those support groups really help?? i've debated about calling a petloss grief number. the idea of setting in a group with total strangers does not appeal to me at all. is there anything else that would help?

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Dear Mokie,

Well, our situations are actually similar. My furbaby, Sabin had passed on Feb.2/00, but had his first actual collapse on New Year's Eve, and was very ill from then on, for the rest of the month he was still with us. I lost my Mother on Jan.2/04, right after New Year's, and then my oldest brother on Feb.29 the same year/04. So holiday-time is fraught with painful memories for me, too. And my Mom's BD is in Oct. and our remaining furgirl's is in Jan. ( as was her brother's ), so I pretty much feel painful memories from the fall until March. While I've had to rework our holidays anyway ever since my husband and I moved from our home city, where both of our families still were/are, I had to re-rework them some more with each loss. Much of what kept me going was our Nissa-girl, as I couldn't stand the thought that I might have to think of her last Christmas as being abnormal. However, when we lost Sabin, the most I could muster the first Christmas without him was to put an artificial tree-TOP in a pot and that was it. I only bought a few things for our girl. We had no holiday dinner or anything. For me, it was all about me, and my grief. It was all I could manage and that was that. I've done different things for the holidays regarding my Mom's and brother's deaths, but none were as bad for me as Sabin's passing.

When my Mom and brother died, the next year we got invited to a Christmas dinner, but I didn't want to go, so we didn't, period. I cried all the way through our own dinner at home. I figure you should do whatever you need or want to do, and to heck with the rest of the world, if you can help it. You can explain how you're feeling to others, but they may or may not accept it, and then it's their problem, not yours. There's no substitute for taking good care of yourself during your grief and there's nothing to apologize for. Those who haven't been there can't and won't usually understand, so don't worry about them.

Pet loss support groups can be helpful, but it depends on who's there on any particular night. I went to only one, then happened to submit a tribute to their newsletter in Sabin's memory. The editor at the time specifically deleted the most important and telling sentence in it...so I never felt comfortable going back again. However, 5 long years later, I wrote them to tell them what that did to me inside and the President had changed, so got a profuse apology and an offer to right the wrong by printing whatever I wanted in their next newsletter. I was then able to submit that one sentence, and a few other things I wanted to say about him, plus his picture, so all was made right in the end. NOW I would go back and speak freely about whatever I wanted, and plan to do so when the time comes and I need their support again. So I guess it comes down to the particular group, who's running it, how liberal their views are, etc. I would at least give it a try, as you never know if you might meet a kindred spirit there and have someone local who can share with you. It's just like groups for people - if you don't want to talk you don't have to. So often I've heard of others who didn't want to talk to 'strangers', yet by the end of one or two meetings, found they were talking more than anyone else!...because when you're sharing grief stories and feelings, you often find these strangers are strangers no more, as you're sharing the same feelings. It's very easy to get close to people that way. While I didn't attend more meetings in person, I had many good 'sessions' with one of this group's phone volunteers over about 3 months' time.

There are also a lot of good books out now ( far more than even 6 years ago ) dealing with animal companion loss. Just check out Amazon.com to see what appeals to you. And of course, we're all here, to listen and share, whenever you need us!

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I lost my precious mare just 8 1/2 weeks ago and I'm still having a hard time. I too get anygry with being so distraught over her death. She was only 8 years old when she broke her leg so badly nothing could be done and I had to make that final awful decision. I keep reliving that day over and over. I have a barnful of horses that I MUST tend to twice daily and it is such a painful ordeal everyday for me. I miss her so much and on the day she passed I felt as if my heart and soul had been ripped from me. She and I were like one and when she left it was if a big part of me left with her. I had waited so long for her and now that she is gone I really don't think I want another (I am a life long horse-person). People have said to me to get another to fill the void.......HA! I've got 8 others standing in the barn that can't fill "The Void"!!! I feel extremely empty and alone when I have to tend to the horses. I lost her mother on Halloween morning 2 years ago and her on Sept. 21 this year. So these holidays are really going to suck this year. I normally love them but this year I want to just stay home and not celebrate. These were the days I would give her her "extra special" treats, etc.... So please know that there are others out here that know how you feel and we really aren't alone in the way we feel. It is hard when others don't understand the depth of the love we had for our "kids" and tell us to "get over it it was just a (cat dog horse mouse snake rat etc....) what ever "it" was meant the world to us and we ARE NOT GOING TO JUST GET OVER "IT"!!!!!

As for grief counseling....I have yet to try it. My neice is educated in it but she doesn't know the feeling of the love of an animal and I'm afraid to ask her for her help. Here is a website that hosts petloss greif counseling chats http://www.aplb.org/ I think today that I am going to go and check it out at 2:00 - 5:00 pm est today.

Please take care,


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You're entirely right...it doesn't matter WHAT the species of our loved one(s), the heartbreak is the same if we've had a special bond with them. Please accept my utmost sympathy for the loss of your special horse. Although I've never had the privelege to know a horse intimately, I love them as much as any other creature and know that they're very sensitive, wise and loving creatures. I also wanted to mention that it was either a link from Marty T on this site, or somewhere else I came across, to a dedicated grief site for horse lovers. I don't know if you've even checked for one, but I know there's something out there.

As for speaking to your niece, yes, one has to be extra careful with one's heart at such times when trying to find help for our disenfranchised grief, as there are more people who don't understand than there are that do. There aren't a whole lot of counselors in every part of the world who are trained ( either through education or personal experience - the latter the better, I think ) in companion animal grief. I know one who I contacted via email locally, didn't even have the decency to reply back when I asked if she had any experience with this type of loss. So be careful, and trust your gut instincts/intuition on this.

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Guest Guest_Eliza_*

Dear Smokey's Mom,

I know exactly how you feel. You definitely have every right to feel sad and grieve over your dear, beloved Smokey! And that would be true even if you hadn't spent 22 long years together. But the fact that you did spend that much of your life with her must make it very difficult to get through the holidays. My heart truly goes out to you at this terribly difficult time.

I know what it's like to feel like maybe you shouldn't be grieving as hard as you are for your kitty, but I have found that talking with a counselor helps a lot! I called a counselor who specializes in pet loss and talking with her has been a life saver! Like you, I wouldn't really feel that comfortable talking with a group of strangers (at least not at first, it might get easier over time), so I have found that one-on-one counseling has been wonderful. My counselor is a cat lover, too, and has been continually supportive of my need to talk about my loss, no matter how long it takes. Of course, individual counseling costs money, and I'm not sure if that's an issue for you, but if you can find a reasonably priced one with pet loss experience, I imagine it would help you to talk with them.

If it is an issue, I would encourage you to go to a support group. It has helped me so much to be able to talk about my loss. It makes it easier to get through the worst of it when you're surrounded by people who understand what you're going through.

Hang in there and take good care of yourself. We're all thinking about you.



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Guest Guest_mokie_*

:( thanks for your replies. it is very hard to 'hang in there'. i have good days an bad days. with the holidays coming i have more bad days. i just want to cry all the time. an seriously thinking of ending life to stop the pain.

i have my other cats and dogs an i don't even care that much about them right now. i go through the motions...feeding them, tending to them, walking the dogs etc. but the greif of loosing my mokie after 22 years is just unbearable. i suppose when the holidays are over it will be better. we were hoping mokie would of made it till christmas but she couldn't.

please what else can i do. the idea of setting in a group doesn't sound appealing to me and i don't have extra money for private counseling. i've talked and e-mailed with friends a little but after a while i think they think i'm making a big deal out of this. i'm reading a book about petloss but have to stop. it just make me more depressed. i do go to my job which helps but then i get home and its the same. all the other animals are waiting except mokie. she was my life for 22 years.

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Dear Mokie,

Yes, I know, sweetie, how unbearable that pain is and how it can make you feel totally panicked because it just doesn't stop. And you're right - after the holidays it probably will be a bit better. These occasions can be really, really tough during grief because they're so filled with memories and expectations and when those can't be met anymore, it almost doubles the heartbreak.

Perhaps you should consider calling a Crisis Line, if you're feeling that desperate. I think the only reason I never did was because I was able to get some help from those phone volunteers from the pet loss support group. While my husband was grieving too for awhile, he worked through it FAR faster than I did, which surprised, angered and disappointed me, as it made me think that he didn't care nearly as much as I did about our boy, so I felt even more alone and unempathized with in my grief. I HAD to talk to someone else, someone who had felt just as bad ( or close enough ) as I was and really knew how devastating it was. Just knowing someone else cares enough to help you get more help can ease some of that panic and pain, and certainly a Crisis Line should have a list of possible resources that might fit your needs, aside from being there to listen and support you at any time of the day or night. Also, something I was thinking about going to a group setting ( I know you don't favour this idea, but... ) is that it's more than likely you could get the incredibly - healing benefit of physical touch there, in the form of hugs or pats. It's something we often overlook as being so very beneficial when we're in pain and yet it can help so much. I know whenever my counselor would give me a soft little rub or pat when I was really distraught, I immediately felt more understood and cared for. And if there was one thing I noticed in both animal and human loss groups, it was that those who were the most visibly distraught got immediate sympathy from many others in the group. Anyone's tears opened up everyone's hearts very wide. I personally think there's no substitute for another's physical presence when grieving, but that's me...

I suspect what you want, more than even the best support system in the world, is just to have Smokey back, and I truly wish I could provide you with this, your heart's deepest desire, just as much as I wish I could do the same for myself and for everyone else here. But we both know that's not possible, and unfortunately, the road we must all walk entails having to seek out and find any aids we can for ourselves, in whatever ways feel okay, or maybe just tentatively possible for us.

I can really only suggest things I've done myself, or heard of others doing. For me, that also included getting an animal communicator so I could talk to my boy again, which I've done 2x's at least ( one time I'm not convinced about ) out of 3. I don't know if you're open to that but I'm putting it out there anyway. It was something else I, personally, needed. And although one experience of this was actually kind of negative for me, it still helped in some ways ( it's a long story ). Some other people have turned to clergy, but one first has to be sure what their views are on animals, lest you get hurt by a non-understanding ear. I'm so sorry...I empathize so much with what I imagine is your breathlessness when that utter desolation comes up inside, as I've been there, too. It really DOES ease up in time, but waiting for those moments of a little relief is such a strain. There just aren't words enough to describe it, so tears become the only passage through it.

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Hey Mokie and Maylissa,

I just replied to Mokie on her personal email, so I won't repeat all that I said on that, but just to say Maylissa, I completely agree with everything you said in your reply, and would just want to add this regarding your husband and how he seemed to heal quicker than you:

You do not need to feel bad about how you are grieving, yes, you are grieving extremely and hard, but don’t let anyone take that away from you. AS Maylissa mentioned In her reply to you that her husband healed faster than she did and she didn’t understand, my husband has also seemed to heal faster than me, but I think the truth of it is that men have a much harder time dealing with their grief than women do, it’s not a macho or ego thing at all, I truly think that they just don’t know how to deal with it and it frustrates them and they do whatever they need to do to get through it as quickly as possible. My husband has told me many times in his life when he was feeling that badly that it made him want to get a gun and shoot himself, so I think with men when they are grieving, it must make them all feel that way and it scares them, so they just try to get through it quickly.

And remember Maylissa, as you, I, MartyT, and others have said before, everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time, and even if we think they got through it to quickly, who are we to judge? And on that same token, if someone close to us heals quicker than us, and they expect us to heal quickly, we need to remind them of what I just said above about in our own way and our own time.

I would like to also say on the topic of counseling and being careful, I compeltely agree, but as a 100% bible-believing Christian, I have come to find in some of my own research and the scriptural research of others, pastors, lay-persons, etc., that there are many, many christians out there who believe as I do, that our babies are in Heaven waiting for us, and that every single furbaby who has passed on and who will pass on has a place in Heaven, where there is no beginning and no end, and there is no running out of space, so there is defintely enough room for all of us. Yes, there are those christians who do not believe that, or who say, "the Bible doesn't make it clear", well, Pastor Jack Van Impe and Billy Graham and Dr. Bernie Coombs and others HAVE done scriptural research that DOES back up what we believe, that all of our beloved animals have a place in Heaven. So, anyway, just wanted to get that out there and hope that it encourages you all.

God Bless!


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My dear Mokie,

As I read through all the messages posted in this thread, I am touched by the warm and caring responses you’ve received from Maylissa, Kelly, Eliza and Tracy, and there is precious little I can add to the wisdom and experience they’ve already shared with you. Nevertheless, I feel a need to add my voice to theirs and share some of my own thoughts with you.

You say that with the onset of the holidays, your bad days outnumber the good ones, you want to cry all the time, and you are “seriously thinking of ending life to stop the pain.” The idea of sitting in a group with total strangers doesn’t appeal to you, your friends are growing impatient with your grief, reading a book about pet loss makes you even more depressed, and while work offers you some respite, your grief is still waiting for you when you get home at the end of the day.

In your message of November 21 you ask, “please what else can I do?” I am reminded of the old adage that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Much as you may want to do so, there is no way to avoid this grief of yours. You cannot wait it out; you won’t “get over it” quickly, and nobody else can do it for you. It’s called grief work because finding your way through grief is hard work, and if you put it off, like a sink full of dirty dishes in your kitchen, it will just sit there, waiting to be done. And the longer it waits, the harder it becomes.

In addition to what you’ve already tried or thought about trying, there is a great deal “else” that you can “do” with this grief of yours. If you find that one thing you’ve already tried doesn’t work for you right now, you can keep trying it anyway, you can leave it alone for now and try it again later on, or you can move on and try something else. Don’t make the mistake of telling yourself that you “don’t feel like trying it.” If you wait until you feel like doing something, you will wait forever, because you’ll never feel like doing any of this! Grief work is very hard, it takes enormous energy, and it shouldn’t be done alone. It is an active process, not a passive one, and recovery is a choice. Remember that since the beginning of time, people have survived the most devastating losses. Whatever loss confronts you, know that you can survive. You will get through this experience, and you will not feel this way forever. Like all the rest of us struggling to cope with our own losses, given the proper information, comfort and support, you can learn how to use this grieving time to help you heal yourself.

As I have said elsewhere, to make the process of mourning a healing one, you must go through it actively, which means moving through it thoughtfully and working with it deliberately. Expressed grief can be worked with and released, but suppressed and unexpressed grief will continue to torment you in ways you cannot control. Healthy, normal grieving is a process of honestly facing the reality of your loss, coming to terms with is impact on your life, learning to access all available resources for recovery, finding meaning in your loss, and continuing to live productively in the years that follow.

You say you lost both your parents around the holidays and especially at this time of year, you find it hard to be “upbeat.” I hope you’ve read my article, Handling the Holidays When You’re Feeling Blue. You’ll find a similar article aimed at grieving animal lovers on my Web site, at Pet Loss and the Holidays.

You ask “do those support groups really help?” I can tell you unequivocally that the answer is “Yes!” I am repeatedly amazed at the healing power of these groups, and that alone is what has inspired me to continue volunteering my time on the first Saturday of the month for the past 14 years as the facilitator for our own Pet Grief Support Group here in Phoenix AZ. (For further information, see Pet Grief Support Service.) See also my article, Finding Support in a Pet Loss Group. Although you “don’t have extra money for private counseling;” you might also be interested in reading Peggy Haymes’ article, Top Ten Reasons for Avoiding Counseling.

If you cannot bring yourself to attend an “in person” support group or to seek private counseling, another (less costly) alternative is to purchase an audio program on pet loss which you can use in the privacy of your own home. Two such outstanding programs that I’ve reviewed and personally recommend are listed on my site’s Audiocassette / CD Program page; click on the links listed there to read more about each program.

In her post to you on Nov. 20, Kelly refers you to one particular online chat for pet loss. If that one is not to your liking, you’ll find additional ones listed on my site’s Helplines, Message Boards, Chats page.

As Maylissa notes in her response to Kelly, there are literally dozens of pet loss resources on the Internet, including Web sites dedicated to specific types of pet loss, such as the one aimed at horse lovers (Hoofbeats in Heaven).

In her post to you on Nov. 22, Tracy accurately observes that “everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time.” For further discussion of this topic, see my article, Understanding Different Grieving Patterns in Your Family.

In her post to you on Nov. 17, Maylissa states that there are “a lot of good books out now . . . dealing with animal companion loss.” You’ll find links to many of them on the Articles and Books page of my Grief Healing Web site; I’ve listed only the ones I’ve read and personally recommend. Difficult as it is for you, I encourage you to continue reading about the grief that accompanies pet loss, so you'll have a better sense of what normal grief looks and feels like, as well as what you can do to manage your own reactions. This alone can be very reassuring. See those listed on my site’s Pet Loss Articles page. Another alternative is to subscribe to an online e-mail course I've written; you can get a sense of it at Coping with Pet Loss: Course Overview.

Every loss is a challenge to grow. But growth requires change, and change is often painful. When your Smokey died, everything changed, including you. Nothing will ever be the same again, and it may feel as if you’ve lost control of everything. But you will find that in fact you do have some control, especially over the choices you will make. You alone will decide whether the changes you face will be positive or negative ones. You can choose how you will respond to this loss of Smokey and how you will let it affect you. You can keep both your memories of the past and your dreams for the future, and you can decide not to give up on yourself and the rest of your life.

Since you have access to the Internet, you really do have a world of support at your fingertips. There are all kinds of resources "out there" – you just have to make the effort to find them and to reach out and ask for the help that you need. As all of the response you’ve received here indicate, you are not alone. If one of the suggestions we’ve made doesn’t work for you, keep looking for one that feels right to you. As overwhelmed as you feel, you are in need of support, comfort and understanding, and you’ve taken that first difficult step by coming here. I hope you will continue taking more of those steps as you continue on this long journey, one step at a time, and that you will think of each step as a gift you can give to yourself.

Wishing you peace and healing,

Marty T

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