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Coping with the Grief of Losing a Beloved Pet

Strategies for Embracing Grief and Finding Pockets of Joy.

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Photo: Shutterstock

“Let It Be” by The Beatles—that’s the song that was playing as our Moxie Moo passed away a week ago. In my almost 40 years on this earth, I’ve learned that these moments of grief are gut-wrenching. But I’ve also learned that if you want love and beautiful memories in your life, these moments are part of the package. 

I’ve opted for a life that’s guided by that famous Alfred Lord Tennyson quote: “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” And when you let people and creatures into your heart, although it may be many decades in the distance, saying “goodbye” is inevitable. 

Until Moxie’s death, I’d been buffered from the end-of-life moments of my loved ones. For example, my mother and a dear friend of hers were caring for my dad through in-home hospice when he died. And my mom, dad, or ex-husband were with all of my previous creatures when they passed on. 

I like to say that Moxie was the fur friend who was the least mine but became the most important of my life. This sassy and lovable cat managed to live almost 21 years. For most of those, she was cared for by her dad. But, when I came along almost four years ago, and started to date Jamie, she adopted me as much as I adopted her. Moxie Moo was my little buddy and my unconditional friend. 

Her health had been declining for the last few months. And two weeks ago, the night before Jamie had to go on his first big business trip since the pandemic began, it really took a turn. I wanted Jamie to be able to focus on his work for those four days. So, I told him not to worry—I had this. After the first night of caring for Mox on my own, I realized I was out of my league. Between caring for her physically and dealing with my own sadness and lack of sleep, I was underwater. 

The next morning, I called my sweet mama to share the tear-jerking details of the night I’d had. I didn’t even have to ask for her help. When she asked if I needed her, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes.” This is my first self-care strategy for making it through these difficult moments in life: Don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help.

That afternoon, mom made the 2.5-hour drive from Augusta and helped me care for Moxie until Jamie got home on Thursday. She helped watch Mox when I had to go to work or when she knew I needed to get some sleep. Without that help, I would have been lost. I’m so thankful for it.

Once Jamie returned, we decided that it was time to give Moxie peace. I’m grateful that she wasn’t in pain, that we could both be there to say “goodbye,” and we were able to have who we call the “hospice vet” come to our home. The vet that came from Laps of Love was kind and gentle. It’s always difficult to lose your creature. However, if I had to choose a way for Moxie to leave us, I think this was the best option.

While strategies like the one I just mentioned are fresh in my mind, I wanted to share them with you. Some are meant to create pockets of joy, while others are helping me move through my grief. With that said, here are some of the ways I’m coping with this goodbye:

Listen to “Time to Say Goodbye”—and cry your heart out.

When it comes to crying, I don’t fight it. But, when I’m trying to make it through a workday, take care of others, etc., I’ve found that taking time to cry at intentional moments helps me from losing it all day long. For example, last Saturday, the sadness started to wash over me. But I knew that later that afternoon, there were things I needed to do. So, I found a YouTube video of “Time to Say Goodbye” sung by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, and I ugly cried for the duration. For years, I’ve used this beautiful song for just this purpose. And I always feel a little lighter when it’s finished.

Follow that with the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack.

Disco makes everything better. Counter the sad song with a little joy and booty shaking. From “A Fifth of Beethoven” to the title song, “Saturday Night Fever,” the tunes on this album always make me smile.

Watch a video of cows being airlifted from the Swiss Alps.

I came across this moment of joy after crying my eyes out one day last week. According to the BBC website describing the video, “Cows have been airlifted from a Swiss Alpine meadow in a process used by farmers to move the injured ones. The process is done annually for the members of the herd who can’t walk down from their summer pasture.” Watch the video.

Write about your grief.

Writing about my experience has helped me let go of a little more sadness, because I’m leaving some of it behind on this electronic page. Whether you want to put it in a letter to the person or creature you’re losing, write in a journal, or just sit at your computer and type a brain dump of what you’re feeling, putting the thoughts in your head into words you can read can be therapeutic.

Take an Epsom salt bath.

Part of the grieving process is making sure that you still take care of yourself. The benefits of an Epsom salt soak range from helping with muscle relaxation to soothing the skin. To me, there’s nothing better than letting that warm water envelope you. I add two to three cups of plain, cheap Epsom salt to a tub and typically soak for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Put flowers everywhere.

Buy a big bouquet of Costco roses (it’s like $17 for about 20 — a great deal) or go out to your yard and trim a bunch off of an azalea bush. It doesn’t really matter. I just know that when I’m feeling blue, seeing a jar or vase of brightly colored flowers makes my heart smile. This past week, there has been at least a small vase of flowers in almost every room of the house. 

Go easy on yourself.

Over the last few weeks, there have been plenty of things that I haven’t been able to get to on my to-do list. And that’s OK. I did what I could and found a balance between throwing myself into work as a distraction and spending precious moments with Moxie. Some days were better than others. However, every evening, I told (and still tell) myself that I was proud of what I accomplished during the day. There’s always going to be one more thing you could do. But I find peace in saying that to myself and acknowledging that whatever I did that day was enough.  

Posted with permission from FRESHJUICE + bubbly.

About The Author
Amelia Pavlik

For more than 10 years, wellness cultivator Amelia Pavlik has worked as a wellness journalist, visiting more than 50 spas from Vail to Vienna, and has spent 20-plus years teaching in the fitness industry. Over the years, Amelia searched for a resource that could provide her with the latest in luxury wellness products and experiences to suit her budget whether it was $50 or $5,000, but she couldn’t find one. So, in February 2021, she took matters into her own hands and launched FRESHJUICE + bubbly, a boutique business focused on connecting clients to wellness splurges to suit budgets big and small.