We’ve officially entered “the most wonderful time of the year.” So they say.
For many, this season is euphoric. The bright, sparkly lights, the incessant din of cheerful music, the buzz of excitement in the air- it’s magical. Intoxicating.
But for others, it’s just downright depressing. For some of us, this year brought an empty place at our table. Or on our hearth. Or at the foot of our bed. During the holidays, that empty place might be the only thing we can see.
The holidays are a time to gather with family, reminisce about the year past, and look forward to the year to come. But when the past year stole our loved one, and the gathered family is a little bit smaller, it can feel like there’s not much to celebrate, and we’d really rather not remember.
And for those of us who have lost a pet, it can be especially painful when we have people in our lives making comments like “Well it was just a dog.” This season that brings us all together also brings more opportunities for people to make ignorant and obnoxious comments.
Maybe the holidays remind you of all the beautiful holidays from years past, and the special memories, and the love…and it just throws your pain into sharper relief, casts your loneliness in a brighter light.
Maybe the holidays bring up painful memories from holidays past, and the yearly reminders are just too much to bear.
Maybe the holidays feel like something you just have to make it through every year. If you can get to the other side, then you can breathe.
Or maybe for you, your emotions during the holidays are just complicated. You feel the magic and warmth and find yourself enjoying things, but you also feel guilty, because you are allowing yourself to enjoy life without your loved one.
This season, you may feel invisible. The holidays have a nice way of making all those who are not cheery feel very isolated and unseen, and that can just make everything worse. But if you are one of these “invisible” people, whatever you may be feeling- loneliness, pain, complicated cheer, fresh grief, or “stale” grief- please know, you are not alone (no matter how lonely things might feel).
If you can, try to surround yourself with supportive, loving friends and family. Let those in your circle know how they can help, and allow yourself to reach out for extra support if you need it. There are many resources for people needing help, not only during the holidays, but all year round. There are support groups, therapists, grief counselors, and more- for people missing humans, AND animals. Countless individuals have used these resources and benefited greatly from them. There are so many people who experience grief and hopelessness, especially at this time of year, and being able to know that there is someone who will walk through it with you, and that there are so many people who have already walked this difficult path, can be a beacon of light during a very dark time.
Above all, this holiday season, be kind to yourself. Let yourself feel what you feel. Don’t allow others to belittle your emotions, or incorrectly summarize your experience for you. Don’t allow the insensitive comments to have any bearing on your real, true, valid feelings. If someone says “It was only a cat,” say, “Well, it wasn’t YOUR cat, and you weren’t a part of that relationship.” Don’t allow them to belittle your relationship, and don’t let them tell you the “right way to feel.”
This season, remind yourself that it is okay to be sad. It is ok to be joyful. It is ok to have fun. It is also ok to not have fun. It is ok to miss your loved one, whether human or animal. You miss them because they mattered, deeply.
And your experience matters deeply.
So, if you’re not feeling so merry and bright, remember that you are not alone, and you are not wrong to be feeling what you feel.
We at MN Pets are always here for you, to listen, to validate, and to help you remember that you are not alone.