When we lose a loved one, we not only feel the depth of their absence, but we can often feel overwhelmed by what is left behind. Something mundane can trigger a tidal wave of emotion that catches us completely off-guard such as a book resting open on a table top, a worn pair of slippers warming the bedside or that familiar voice captured like a time capsule on the answering machine. So much of what remains can be difficult to come to terms with because it is a painful reminder of what is missing.
Along with the mundane, there are many significant details that must be taken care of; the settling of insurance policies, the management of legal affairs, the packing up and putting away and the tender phone calls of those who want to help. Many of these details can be handled at your own pace, as you regain your strength as the days pass…. with the exception of one: who’s been walking the dog?
Unlike many of the reminders that can be put away or put off until later, the ongoing care of your pet cannot. And this is terrifically uplifting news! Amidst all of the sadness and confusion you may be experiencing, someone still needs you and loves you and wants to be there for you.
Although taking over the care of your family pet may seem like yet another emotional responsibility to add to your list, consider this: a pet’s love is unconditional, unlimited and non-judgmental. It is easily reciprocated and provides great comfort and companionship in times of trial.
The incredible healing effects that pets have on humans has long been studied, which is why many dogs and sometimes cats are used in therapy programs in hospitals across North America and beyond. Simply stroking and interacting with your pet has been proven to decrease depression and loneliness, particularly in the elderly; not to mention hypertension and other stress-related conditions! There are even reported cases of children who refused to speak during typical therapy sessions, but began to speak once a dog was introduced to the environment.
Animals ask very little of us, yet offer an endless source of affection, devotion, entertainment, companionship and conversation. I don’t think a cat has ever left the room because you talked his ears off. And I doubt if a dog has ever complained about going out for a walk! Which is why, if you are grieving the loss of a loved one and not currently sharing your home with a pet, this may be the “purrrfect” time to give adoption some serious consideration. Hundreds of loving animals are available for adoption in your local area through the Humane Society.
Another wonderful thing about caring for your pet during the grieving process is that it brings routine back into our lives. And this is a blessed thing, for routine can also bring with it a sense of normalcy and renew our purpose to carry on with our lives and move forward in the healing process.