The Nation Grieves

Hello and welcome to this weeks blog. I hadn’t planned on this blog being about grief but with the very sad news on Thursday of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II it couldn’t be about anything else. I send my condolences to the Royal family on their loss.

RIP Your Majesty. Thank you for your tireless service to our country and to the Commomwealth. You will be missed by all. The nation shares in your family’s grief.

In this blog I want to introduce you to myself, because I haven’t really done that yet. Before the dreaded Covid I decided to follow my dreams and I trained to be hypnotherapist. It’s something I had wanted to do for a very long time and I have to say I loved every second of the training and the coursework and the exams and I am still learning and updating my skills to be the best hypnotherapist I can be. After two years of being a hypnotherapist I realised I wanted to be more involved with something around animals. It was then I decided, because I had lost my own pets and I knew how devastating and misunderstood the grief following this is, that maybe I could help people in the same position I had been in. This led me to train to be a pet bereavement counsellor. I feel very privileged to be able to help people through this very difficult time in their lives.

So, what about me? I am originally from England, Yorkshire to be exact. I was never allowed pets as a child. It was only after I married that I got my first pet, a long haired golden hamster that I called Goldie. A little while later I got another hamster that I named Gizmo. Unfortunately Gizmo was the first to pass away and although this upset me it didn’t have as big an impact on me as when I lost Goldie. Probably because she had always been the less friendly of the two and Goldie had always loved to be carried around and had often slept on my shoulder on an evening. I was truly heartbroken after he passed away. After them I had 2 beautiful cats, firstly Jet a beautiful big black cat who was a rescue from the RSPCA that I got as a kitten. Next came Sophie who had been born under a hedge and rescued along with her siblings and were under the care of Cats Protection. When I met this lovely litter of kittens it was a tiny tabby who claimed me to be her own. So she came home with us because I really had little choice in the matter. Only a year later I was blessed to add a tiny human into the family. Life went on and I was busy with college, being a parent and then a new career. Things changed and we eventually moved to a new life in Belfast.

I’ve talked before about my pets since moving to Belfast after I lost my cats. First there was the beautiful Nemo who came from a rescue and graced our lives for almost 12 years. What I never mentioned about Nemo is the fact I actually went to the rescue centre to adopt a cat. Obviously there’s a very big difference between a cat and a dog, but that young dog, that nobody wanted, stole my heart. I still wanted a cat but because Nemo was a sighthound no-one was prepared to let me adopt a kitten. Until 10 years later when Cats Protection came out to assess what my dog was like, and finally I was allowed to adopt a kitten. I was very particular about what kind of kitten I wanted and I adopted the only black kitten in the shelter. I love crafting and he was to be my crafty helper and he needed a crafty name so we called him Sharpie after the pens. He’s the reason I became a volunteer, and I remain a volunteer, with Cats Protection. So that’s the beginning of Nemo’s Legacy which I’ve spoken about in the past. We currently have two dogs, Ollie who is nearly 8 years old and Jazz who has just turned 3, and 2 cats, Midnight my black cat, who’s nearly 9 years old and Simba, my ginger cat who’s nearly 4 years old. Of course I have to mention the ones we’ve loved and lost, Nemo, Sharpie and Stan. Missed every day ❤️

So that’s enough about me.

Let’s talk about pet grief. It’s as real and often more heartbreaking than losing a human family member. Some people believe our pets wait for us at the Rainbow Bridge, and it is a beautiful sentiment. Others believe they go to heaven and there are those who have other varied beliefs, there is no right or wrong. Whatever our belief, it is personal to us and our choice what we believe. On a personal note I do like to think that my pets are happy, free from pain and are waiting for me and maybe they are with my dad who I lost 15 years ago. Whatever your personal view, we have lost someone we loved dearly and that grief is as real and devastating as any other loss. So, what can we do to get through these hard times.

Feel your feelings. Don’t stuff them down and trying not to feel. It may take time and energy to cry and to scream and to be angry and to whimper, but the more you can release your feelings, the more easily the grief can move through you. It is a natural process and it follows it’s own path. There is no right or wrong way to grieve but sometimes people do get stuck in their grief.

Connect with other pet loss grievers. Reading stories, commenting on other peoples losses and finding people or groups who have experienced pet loss can help you feel less alone. I am in the process of starting a group of my clients to do this very thing as it offers support, friendship and reassurance that things can improve for you.

A few other things that might help you feel supported are patience, hugs, remembering the good times with your pet, cry if you can, laugh if you can. It’s not dishonouring them to laugh. Feel gratitude for the love you shared because your bond continues, your love story never ends just because they’re out of sight does not mean they’re out of mind.

Don’t compare your pain to the struggles of others, yes, there is much to grieve about in the world right now but YOUR grief, right here and right now deserves time and space to be heard.

Grief isn’t just sadness but a myriad of emotions. Anger, guilt, denial, regret, remorse, shock, sadness, acceptance and hope. Grief follows its own path, it isn’t a problem to be solved, it cannot be fixed and has no solution. Grief is raw, real and evolving. It never goes away but you do learn to live with it, eventually grief feels like an old friend who likes to visit from time to time. They say price of love is grief. Loss is inevitable in life. It is a natural part of life and it happens to everyone in one form or another. The world continues on and it can feel so insignificant because you’re suffering and in so much pain, but life goes on. People still go to work, people still celebrate different occasions, bills still need to be paid. The world continues on. Even if you don’t feel it right now there’s so much to live for, there are new memories to be made, more love to give and be given, more joy to feel and more living to do.

I am here to help if you need it.

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