Coping Through Holidays and Special Event Days

Facing holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and other special days for the first time after a pet’s death can be very challenging. Many of these days serve as reminders of fun things you used to but can no longer do with your pet. To see and hear the excitement in others as they plan for holidays can sometimes lead to your feeling alone with your pain.

It is important to remember that the anticipation and anxiety associated with planning for these occasions is usually worse than the actual event. Also, if you find that you are enjoying the day and not as sad as you had thought you would be, realize that you are not being disloyal to or betraying your pet. You are merely moving forward through your grieving process.

The following are some tips that might help you through a day or event that you would rather avoid:

  • Acknowledge that the day or event might be painful for you or might cause a wave of sadness. At the same time, realize that the wave of sadness will pass shortly after the day or event is over.
  • Find a way to include your pet’s memory in the activities you do. For example, light a remembrance candle during dinner, decorate a tree ornament with her or his picture, and write a letter letting your pet know how much you miss her or him on this day.
  • Let those who are close to and supportive of you know your needs. For example, it is okay to not want to do anything special on that day or to need some time alone.
  • Think about changing some of your old traditions if they no longer sound exciting or seem appropriate. If you have always been the one to cook dinner, do the shopping, make travel or party arrangements, and don’t feel up to this year, ask some one else to take over those duties.
  • Let people know it is appropriate to mention your pet’s name or to talk about your horse. Many people mistakenly feel that by doing so they will make you sad, when often, the reality is that it is comforting for many people to know that others remember their loved one and can acknowledge that this is a challenging day for you.
  • You might find that friends and family members go out of their way to try and “cheer you up.” While this is sometimes helpful, it also can be hurtful if you feel as though they are uncomfortable with your grief. You can let them know that you do not expect them to take away your pain and that you are coping with your grief in your own way.
  • The anniversary of the death can bring back memories of the day your pet died or the events leading up to that day. Planning some type of memorial service or activity on this day can be a way of paying tribute to your horse. Reviewing the past year and the progress you have made in your grieving process can help you see how far you have come in your healing process.