Monday, February 13, 2012

Furry Companions Can Be Extremely Helpful When Grieving

Editor's Note:  This post was actually written and posted in my other blog which I have been on hiatus from since October.  It is a support blog for those who are dealing with Grief and Bereavement.   I started it because it was something I always wanted to do and it was a way I thought to help others and myself.   I lost my father in May 2011. In October, it became too difficult to write it. I will get back to it. This post is one on how our animal companions can be extremely helpful during one of the most difficult parts of  life's path and thought this was a good one to share here. I have dealt with a lot of loss in my own life and have lots of education and professional experience with death and loss too. I hope some insights I've learned are helpful to you. Please share this post if you know someone who is dealing with the loss of  a loved one. I have added to this upon some things people said in regards to how their pets have helped them.. Thanks.

As the title suggests, furry companions can be extremely helpful during the grief process. There are different approaches and aspects to this. Some people may already have a furry companion such as a dog, a cat, a rabbit or something smaller like a gerbil or hamster.   Having a familiar companion can be really helpful. Many animals do seem to have a sense of knowing when helping out their human companions is necessary and they lovingly step up to the task!  When others may avoid the bereaved due to their own discomfort in not knowing how to act or saying something awkward, our furry friends are always there and know what to do.

They can also provide purpose in the life of a grieving human such as making sure the companion  animal is fed, watered, exercised, clean and whatever the animal needs. It can also help keep the bereaved person grounded with life and earthly things-providing some balance with the shock or withdrawal from everyday life.

Bringing a new life into the life of the grieving person can also be helpful. It is not meant, by any means, to replace the loved one who has passed on, but more to provide a two-way companionship and new relationship to build upon. It is a great way to share some of that great capacity for love that one has demonstrated in his/her loss of a loved one in a positive way with another life. Not only does it help fill, not replace, some of the empty void or space in the bereaved person's life, it can help the person grow through the growing bond between the two and also the hope it helps create in showing that one's life can go on.

Of course one can buy an animal somewhere, but actually going to a rescue or shelter can add another dimension to the whole hope that is offered! It helps empower the bereaved to give hope to another life. In some cases, it is saving a life from being destroyed.  Many shelter or rescue animals are socialized, sweet and loving already and looking for hope as much as the bereaved. They, too, have their loss of a previous home too.

Then, there's the universal benefits of pets (companion animals) of the unconditional love they share with us. They listen and don't complain.  They will provide reassurance when no one else will and in ways others don't or can't.

A painting I did of Grumbles, my first bunny.

My rabbits provided love and purpose for me through many different things, including deaths of family members and friends. My first rabbit, Grumbles, usually an aloof rascally, but affectionate rabbit, just seemed to know what to do by cuddling with me the whole day, licking me (or in a sense, perhaps my wound) while I laid in bed drained beyond belief from my mother's death. When my mother and grandmother passed on, I named new bunnies after them. When my father passed away, ten years later, I named one after him. It turned out to be a girl, so she is Jamie, instead of James. It makes people and myself laugh when I explain it. It doesn't dishonor my dad. He would think it was funny.  It gave me a way to show love and honor to him, but Jamie allowed me to look at a small part of my life without my dad in a new way. She gives me new purpose and shows me that I still have more to do here myself on this earth and life is not over. I feel my dad around me too complaining playfully about the rabbit named after him is a girl.

Jamie Bunny, named after my Dad.

I hope that this article is helpful in some way to you. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment boxes. If you have thoughts you would like to add to this, that would be really great also.  If you have suggestions for the blog or other people reading this, please share. I encourage it greatly.

I wish you peace in your journey today and always.

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