Letting dogs into our lives is setting ourselves up for grief at some point - right? So, the easiest way to avoid this is to never let them into our lives in the first place - wrong! One thing I am sure of is that the love and joy they bring whilst with us more than out ways the pain we feel when they leave us.
As you know, Bruno lost his fight with Congestive Heart Failure in April, and Frankie lost her battle with the physical pain of him leaving and her arthritis just last week. In between my mum lost her battle with dementia, a cruel and debilitating disease. I don't claim to be an expert, but this is what I have learnt from my experience and from the comments shared by so many of my lovely loyal customers and followers. With so much amazing support online I know I am not alone and it got me wondering How to Cope with Grief.
~ Allow yourself to be sad - this is number one. Take time for yourself, cry as much as you need, when & where ever you need - I cry in the car A LOT - usually listening to some melancholy music, it might sound daft but it helps me.
~ Don’t take up the dog beds, bowls or toys until you are ready. We still have dog beds all over the house, because we are not ready to pack them away, but in the car I have taken the covers and cushions out, because for me, this is the right thing. At work we have packed the beds away, but I am not sure how I feel about this.
~ Look at all the amazing photos you ever took of your dog, print them off, have a collage made into a canvas and stick it on the wall in a really prominent place where you can be reminded of the great times you had on a daily basis. IN FACT speak to the photos if you NEED to. Better still have some professional photos taken of your dog if you can, these will not only give you great images, but provide you with wonderful memories of the day too.
~ Having elderly dogs as we did, you’ll be used to walking less often, but when they are gone GO for a long walk, but just do it ‘off your patch’ so you aren’t going to bump into dogs that you know and will have to explain about the loss of your loved one to their owners. Get back into your walking because without a dog it is still a brilliant way to feel better. And for most of us the time without a dog in our lives is likely to be quite short, so it is good to keep the walking routine going.
~ Do something symbolic for your dog - with Bruno I have been having blue nail vanish on my toes in homage to him and for Frankie I brought a pair of gold earrings that, at the moment, I don’t think I will take off - ever. I am planning to have some of their ashes put into a piece of a gold necklace, so that a bit of both of them will be always be close to me.
~ Light a candle for them for as long as you need to. We had Frankie and Bruno cremated - we have their ashes, collars and photos at home with a candle that we light every evening - mums photo is in there now too. This helps both of us feel that they are still with us, not forgotten.
~ Do with the ashes what you feel happy with. Some might decide to bury their loved one in the garden below a beautiful plant but others with ashes might decide on a special place to scatter them. We were keen to keep the ashes, but when Frankie joined Bruno we both independently thought to scatter them together at Puttenham Common in Surrey, where we used to live and where they spent many a happy hour running free and having the time of their lives. We are giving ourselves time to consider this, they might just stay with us. But you will know what is right for you.
One other thing I do know is that until you have worked through the grief it won’t ever leave you, if you go through the process and are kind enough to allow yourself to do so, you can come out the other side. We all cope in different ways, and there is no right or wrong.
I also know that it is OK to say ‘ I am NOT coping’ to loved ones - use them as your support network - this can be face to face, the telephone or on social media - whatever is right for you. I've had a huge amount of support with my online community, customers and friends, this has been super helpful to me and shown me that when used correctly social media can be a brilliant thing. Both of my dogs were a big part of my business & loved online by so many people. This has made this whole process very public for us, but strangely I have found comfort & strength from this. I will leave you with a quote from the amazing Dr Seuss, and a promise that my next blog post will be on a more up lifting topic!
"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened"