HAPPY HOLIDAYS? How to Navigate the Season in Times of Sadness

The holidays release many emotions when we are grieving. Memories of loved ones and/or cherished pets who have passed, weigh heavy on our hearts. The best coping mechanism for grief is to have a plan to help ourselves. In times of sadness, well-meaning family and friends don’t know what to say or how to act, so they may appear withdrawn, uncaring, silent, cold, awkward, or sometimes even bossy. Remember that their true hearts do love you, but they don’t exactly know how to show it.

Tips To Comfort Yourself During The Holidays

  • Understand that the holidays will be different and challenging. The pandemic and the loss of your pet will be a tough struggle. It’s important to continue to care for yourself and allow the grieving process to happen naturally.
  • Remember tears are healthy, as they connect your heart and brain. They seem to flow out of nowhere. They are a normal reaction and allow yourself to heal.
  • Decide which holiday traditions to keep or change. Many families will not be getting together this season. FaceTime or ZOOM has become the new “family dinner hour.” If you are videoing with family, ask them to share a favorite memory they had with your pet. You can put their memories on paper, keep in a memory box/ photo album, create an ornament. Hearing their memories will bring peace knowing your pet touched them as well.
  • Donate pet toys/bedding to an animal shelter in your pet’s honor. Be sure to ask first if they are taking such donations during this time of the pandemic. Unopened food is always accepted and appreciated. Consider making a monetary donation in your pet’s honor.
  • If you’re not feeling up to hosting company this year – don’t. If attending a gathering (sometimes it’s good to be with loved ones), have an exit plan. Drive yourself or signal to you partner when you want to leave if the grief becomes too strong.
  • Give yourself “alone time.” Journal feelings/memories while listening to soothing music to help you express your emotions. Writing also helps your brain and heart connect again. When you go back to read your words, you’ll see that you did all you could for your pet.

Most importantly – reach out for help. The season can be a trying time, even if with well-laid plans and strategies. Talk with a friend who can offer a listening ear or a strong shoulder to lean on. Also know that you are not alone. As NorthStar VETS certified bereavement counselor, I can ALWAYS be reached via e-mail at Through my own personal experiences and years of specialized grief training, I consider it a great privilege to be able to help others who are suffering. Please contact me so that I can provide the necessary tools to aid you in your grief recovery.

I wish you a comforting and healing holiday season!

Ann RooneyAnn Rooney, Certified Bereavement Specialist and Animal Chaplain
For over 16 years, Ann Rooney has worked in the veterinary field comforting pet parents in times of crisis. Certified by the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement in 2016, Ann has committed her career to supporting the emotional needs of clients who have lost their trusted animal companion. By working with veterinarians, connecting with various pet cemeteries, and even experiencing her own pet loss, Ann is a terrific resource for helping clients navigate the difficult part of mourning a pet.

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