A few words on losing a pet, and working through the grief: plus, do please share stories of your lost-but-still-loved companions in the comments.

Hello, and a very warm welcome to the spot on our site where we chat about things that may be affecting you, or people around you. A small place we carve out for conversations about mental health. Our guiding rules are we offer no miracle cures, and not everything we write about will be of use. But over the course of this ongoing series of pieces, hopefully there’s something that can be of use to you.

This week, we’re chatting about grief. It’s a topic that keeps coming up, but in this case specifically the loss of a pet. Because for those who have had pets in their life, losing a longtime companion can be utterly devastating. And occasionally, those who haven’t had pets don’t quite seem to understand. That losing an animal is somehow something we’re expected to immediately get over.

The grief though is very real, and can take to come to terms with. And it can be really, really tough.

As such, just a few thoughts.

  • Self-care. As with all grief, you need to look after yourself, which can be very hard to do. Make sure you eat and drink, make sure you sleep. Just make sure you do the basics. It’s often the last thing you’ll feel like doing, but it’s really important.
  • Grieve at your own pace. If it takes you a few days, that’s fine. If it takes you weeks, that’s fine. Be honest with your grief, and try not to bottle it up. It’s absolutely okay to be upset, and to cry your eyes out.
  • Talk to people. Be open. Again, try and find some way to externalise your feelings. Again, do not in the slightest be afraid to cry.
  • You may consider getting another pet, and people may push you do so. But you know yourself better: there’s a good chance you’ve got room in your heart for another, but you don’t have to make any rash decisions. Do what you need to do, again at your pace. You know you better than anyone else.
  • If you’re really struggling, get support. There are lots of support groups who can help, and organisations such as this one. You aren’t the first to struggle and inevitably you won’t be the last. Others are out there who can help.

I wanted to end this with just a story of a long lost companion of mine, and I invite you to leave the stories of wonderful pets you’ve lost in the comments. Let’s keep their stories going.

I’ve been lucky to have lots of cats in my life – I’m very much a cat person – but I remember as quite a lonely child finding a lot of solace in a moggy called Puss. Yeah, I know. I didn’t name her. She walked in off the street one day, and try as we really did, we could never find her owner, or if she was a stray. She’d live with us for nearly a decade before she died, and it still makes me sad that I’d just left home when she did.

But: it’s the oddest thing. Appreciating cats can be quite primal creatures – sleep! Food! More sleep! A bit of fuss! Sleep! – she was there. At a point where I was struggling, was being bullied, and life was pretty horrible, she was a constant. As daft as that might sound to some, she was a good friend. I don’t miss her as much now, because my memories are fond. Eventually they overtake grief I’ve found. But I remember taking her loss very, very badly. Now? She makes me smile.

I hope you all find some smiles somewhere. And do leave stories and memories of your pets if you’d like to. The very best to you all.

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