HOW TO COPE WITH LOSING A PET OF OUR BELOVED FRIEND

It is a given that we live a lot longer than our pets that we care for, cuddle and nurture and so much more with them that , it stands to reason that we will, at some time or another will have to come face to face with losing one. Whether you know it’s coming or it’s unexpected of the actual time to say our goodbyes to our fur-babies, it is a sad and emotional time. Fortunately, there are many ways to cope with the loss.

Method 1 – Before Your Pet’s Death

  1. Accept your pet’s fate.

At some point, we all will need to come to terms with the mortality of our beloved pets. Even, if the Vet gave a certain diagnosis of the animal’s health and how long it is expected to live for – we definitely need to be
ready for that. Preparation is key. There are very few animals that, like pets, have the expected lifespan of humans.
If your pet is ill or is a “senior” pet, it’s a good time to talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s continued quality of life of what you can do for it to get comfortable and free from any pain.

2. Talk with your vet.

When talking with your vet, ask if and how much pain your pet is experiencing.
Gather every information that you’ll need based on what your pet is facing.
Knowing this will help you make the right decision for your pet, and knowing that you make the best choices for your pet helps you better cope with the loss of a pet.Consider the animal’s quality of life.
Ask yourself a few questions before you make the final decision if you do decide to let your pet go. Is (s)he in pain? Can the pain or illness be treated medically, and still offer your pet a good quality life?
Does (s)he have a good appetite? Is your pet happy?

Finally, give thought to whether medical treatment is financially viable for you.
For most of us, finances do need to be a consideration, albeit a very unpleasant one.
Based on the vet’s assessment and your own judgment, make the decision, with your pet’s happiness in mind.
If you’re not sure, consider getting a second opinion from another vet.

3. Take pictures of your pet.

You will want something to remember it by. Even if (s)he looks sick and miserable, it is very important to take photos and videos, as bittersweet as it may feel. In the future, you may wish to boast about what a wonderful pet you had, and you may want to show people what he or she looked like. Collect anything else you want to remember him/her by. This includes a favorite toy, a blanket, or a decorative element from a tank or cage. Consider taking a clipping of your pet’s hair. You can also dip your pet’s paw in a small bit of paint and place it on a piece of paper that you can later display after the pet has died.

4. Continue to spend time with your pet.

Despite, it’s quality of life it is reassuring for your pet to know that you’re there with them until you let go. Let your pet know how much you love him or her, and cherish every moment. They will know that you’re still with them. Animals can sense people auras and what their nature is like from when you first got them to when you’re about to let them go. As that happens, your bond and friendship with your pet grows. Pet your special one in all its favorite places, and above all else make sure s/he is comfortable. Talk and maybe even sing. Do things that your pet has always enjoyed, when still able, like letting curling up on your lap for hours at a time, giving plenty of time to roam in the yard, and eating yummy little treats. If there was ever a time to spoil your pet, this is it. Discuss your pet’s diet with your vet. If your pet is at an advanced age, a change in diet may make your pet happier on many levels – offering a diversity of foods and/or foods that are easier to eat or digest (and help prevent weight loss). At the same time, respect your pet’s wishes; if (s)he wants to be left alone, don’t violate your pet’s comfort. Let your pet have his or her way

5. Consider staying with your pet during euthanasia. (MORE LATER ON THIS)

I know many people won’t want to come to terms to put the animal down.
Yet, it has clearly shown that when you’re with the animal after it’s put down, they’re at peace to know that you’re with them. It is usually a painless and peaceful process for your pet, but most importantly you will be with your beloved pet in its last moments, helping to ease its way along. Remind the vet to give an anesthetizing agent so that your pet goes to sleep BEFORE the actual injection occurs that ends his/her life.
Holding and petting your animal can give you as much comfort as it gives your pet, and though it’s a sad experience, it’s one that will help you to feel you did all you could for your pet in this world.

6. Make arrangements as to what you will do with his earthly remains.

When preparing for the loss of a pet, you also need to prepare for all the practicalities that follow. They are an absolute nightmare if you’re unprepared – and may add to your grief and stress at the time. You want to ensure you’ve taken care of all arrangements beforehand. You may wish to bury it in your yard with or without a grave marker.
You can also have it buried in a cemetery or cremated.Or you can ask for their ashes once they’ve been cremated and then do a proper ceremony of letting go.

7. Give family and friends a chance to say goodbye.

Before your beloved pet leaves your home forever, let the people who’ve enjoyed his/her presence know that it’s not going to be around for much longer.
You’ve been given a chance to say goodbye, and so should they. Assuming your pet feels comfortable with people, getting attention from various sources will
make you and your pet feel more loved.

Method 2 – After Your Pet’s Death

1 Allow yourself to cry.

Bottling up your emotions is not good for you, and you will feel sad forever.
Forget all that nonsense that you’re not supposed to mourn an animal as much as you would a person. There was a bond that you cherished, and no matter the nature of the bond, it is missed.

2. Tell your friends about the loss.
You might send out a mass e-mail, but not to everyone in your address book.
Send it to those who know you well, and care about you. You will receive many responses that let you know others loved and appreciated your pet and will validate your feelings.

3. Remember your pet.
Don’t pretend you never had one. Even though it makes you sad, it is best to remember and cherish the memories, not ignore them. It may hurt at first, but it’s the only path to closure, and it’s the only way you’ll ever be able to remember fondly your time with your pet. This is a good time to make a scrapbook or post photos on your blog or homepage. Include pictures, stories, and notes about your pet.
Read “The Rainbow Bridge” poem online. It will make you feel better about your loss. Create some form of legacy for your pet when they’re gone to be remembered by.

4. Get on with your life.

Although losing a pet is very sad, it is no reason to shut yourself up in your house or go into depression. Your pet has always felt comfortable in your comfort, and the sooner you get back on track, the sooner you’ll be yourself again.

5. Consider volunteering at a local animal shelter.

While emotionally, you may not be prepared to welcome another pet into your home right away, the act of helping to care for a homeless pet,
a pet in desperate need of a caring human, may help with your grieving and sadness.

6. Do something in memory of your pet.
Plant a tree, donate to a shelter or college of veterinary medicine.

There is so much more you can do while coping after losing your fur-baby as it is quite similar to how it works with when losing a person that you’ve loved and cared about. The question is do you wish to get another pet after losing your first one that passed?

There are many wonderful reasons to once again share your life with a companion animal, but the decision of when to do so is a very personal one. It may be tempting to rush out and fill the void left by your pet’s death by immediately getting another pet. In most cases, it’s best to mourn the old pet first, and wait until you’re emotionally ready to open your heart and your home to a new animal. You may want to start by volunteering at a shelter or rescue group. Spending time caring for pets in need is not only great for the animals, but can help you decide if you’re ready to own a new pet.

Some retired seniors living alone may find it hardest to adjust to life without a pet. If taking care of an animal provided you with a sense of purpose and self-worth as well as companionship, you may want to consider getting another pet at an earlier stage. Of course, seniors also need to consider their own health and life expectancy when deciding on a new pet. Again, volunteering to help pets in need can be a good way to decide if you’re ready to become a pet owner again.

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UNDERSTANDING THE STAGES OF GRIEF

Everyone experiences grief differently. Many people who lose a friend or loved one experience several stages of grief as they deal with a loss. Psychologists who work with people as they grieve have noticed the ways that people cope with the loss.
There are some commonalities including distinct stages such as denial, anger, and depression. There are a few more to name, but what you may not know is that these stages aren’t about the grief of someone dying, but rather something extremely different. There is now more to it than the five that we hear about of the stages of grief which I’ll
explain in a minute.

Types of Loss

Most people associate the word ‘grief’ with the sadness that surrounds the death of a loved one. Yet people can experience grief after many other losses, including a breakup, losing a job or a home, having a part of the body like an arm or leg removed, being diagnosed with a terminal illness, or having to drop out of college.

The Grief Process

People go through a number of stages when they lose a loved one.
You may experience them in any order and any number of times. You may feel sad
at the beginning, move on to anger, and then return to feeling sad. The crucial thing to remember is to take your time to grieve. Allow yourself to do it in own unique way. Never let anyone tell you how to grieve or for how long. It’s up to you! Accept any help if it is given to you while you’re grieving.

What You Probably Don’t Know About Grief

Many people think that the stages of grief are about the loss of a loved one.
However, they are actually related to people who are dying, rather than a personal loss.
Dr. Kübler-Ross is credited with developing the stages of grief, but most people don’t realize that what she created was for people with terminal illness. She wrote a book called On Death and Dying. In this book, Dr. Kübler-Ross writes about the stages of death: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Dr. Kübler-Ross interviews terminally ill patients and discusses how impending death affects a person. She writes about how the patient, their family, and loved ones cope with the loss.

She did not develop the stages to describe the stages of loss people go through when some dies, however, they are about what terminally ill people experience. The stage includes – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. After some time, people adopted these phases to apply to their personal loss, and they seem to fit well. Below you will find the stages of grief as a terminally ill person experiences them. They are also applicable to losing a loved one.
*Just as a quick note that not everyone will go through these stages of all of these. Some miss a few stages while grieving. This will only be for some people not all.

Kubler Ross Stages of Grief
Dr Elizabeth Dr. Kübler-Ross , a Swiss psychiatrist, introduced the concept of the five stages of grief in 1969. What are the five stages of grief? According to Dr. Kübler-Ross’ model, there are several stages of grief. Through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance people process their loss, whether that’s a terminally ill patient or a person coping with losing a loved one. She was also interested in the way people communicate their grief to others through their words, emotions, and behavior.

Denial

When you’re in denial about the loss, you try to convince yourself or others that the event hasn’t happened or isn’t permanent. You know the facts, of course. If your spouse has died, you might accept that it happened but then believe for a time that his death means nothing to you. If your parents have divorced, you might try to get them back together even after they’ve moved on to other relationships.Following a job loss, you might go back to work thinking they didn’t really mean it when they fired you.

Anger

Anger is a typical reaction to loss, and it’s one of the Dr. Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief.
You may be angry with the person who left you, or you may feel angry with yourself.
You might express the anger by shouting at people through sarcasm,
or by showing irritation at everything from significant letdowns to minor problems. This stage can also happen at any time, even after you go through a period of acceptance.
The benefit of the grief stages is that they help you deal with the loss and move on.
Anger can energize you to do just that.

Bargaining

At some point, you may find yourself bargaining, trying to get back what you lost.
This part of the stages of grief and the higher power help the person cope with the loss.
People often promise their God that they will live a better life if only they can take back what they lost. A child may promise to pick up their toys and stop arguing with their siblings if their parents will get back together. Bargaining is a stage that sometimes brings up uncomfortable discussions that go nowhere.

Depression

Next in the five stages of grief is depression. The depression can present with any of the symptoms of clinical depression. You may feel sad and cry often. You might notice changes in your appetite or sleep patterns. You might have unexplained aches and pains. This stage can be too painful in a breakup in a relationship and in the death of a loved one. If you’re moving through these stages of grief, divorce can seem like the end of your life, so it’s natural to become depressed. It is a situational depression that may soon pass naturally as you move toward acceptance.

Acceptance

The last of the Dr. Kübler-Ross stages of grief is acceptance. You understand what you lost and recognize how important that thing or person was to you. You no longer feel angry about it, and you’re finished with bargaining to get it back. You’re ready to start rebuilding your life without it.

Complete acceptance brings complete peace, but often, this stage is never complete. Instead, you might feel sad during death anniversaries or angry when you feel current circumstances would work out so much better if you just had that thing or person with you now. When you accept the loss fully, you’ll understand the stages of grief better.

The Seven Stages of Grief
Dr. Kübler-Ross refined her model to include seven stages of loss. The 7 stages of grief model is a more in-depth analysis of the components of the grief process. These seven stages include shock, denial,anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. Kubler-Ross added the two steps as an extension of the grief cycle. In the shock phase, you feel paralyzed and emotionless. In the testing stage, you try to find realistic solutions for coping with the loss and rebuilding your life.

Other Variations

There have been different grief models over the years. In addition to the 5-stage and 7-stage models, you may hear about the four stages of grief and the six stages of grief. John Bowlby, a British psychologist, studied the stages of grief and loss long before Dr. Kübler-Ross presented her five stages of grief. His work was with children with attachment issues. One of these, of course,is grief. Bowlby’s four stages of grief are: 1) shock and numbness, 2) yearning and searching, 3) despair and disorganization, 4) reorganization and recovery.

The six stages of grief s merely an extension of Kubler-Ross’ original 5-stage process.
The only difference is that the shock stage starts before denial. What are the stages of grief then? That is a question only you can answer. The stages of grief you go through might be different from the ones someone else experiences.

Getting Stuck

Sometimes, the grief process doesn’t go well. The bereaved may become stuck in one stage of grief, unwilling or unable to move through the process. In a worst-case scenario, the person can continue to be angry, sad, or even in denial for the rest of their life. When this happens, they usually need to talk to a grief counselor before they can move out of that stage of grief. Otherwise, the intense pain might continue over the course of many years. Also, they may miss opportunities to build a new life that can bring them happiness in the here and now.

Help When You’re Grieving

Grief counseling helps people who are overwhelmed after a loss. If they are stuck in one stage of grief, this type of counseling can help move them towards recovery. The counselor assists and guides you as you talk about the loss, identify your feelings, and separate from and learn to live without the person you lost.

Along the way, they will help you understand the stages of grief. They will support
you by providing information about grief in general as you go through the process.
They help you identify and hone the coping skills you’re already using. If the method
you’re trying to use for coping isn’t working out, the grief counselor can help you identify that problem and introduce you to coping skills that work better.

Real Men DON’T GRIEVE, OR DO THEY?

Men are the forgotten grievers!

A woman in tears, openly expressing her pain, wanting to connect with a male partner whose impermeable stoicism has left her feeling alone. A man, his heart breaking on the inside, confused amidst a world shattered by loss, locking his pain behind a wall of silence, unsure how to express vulnerability or to receive support.

Is there really a difference in the way men grieve and respond to loss? After doing some research it’s safe to say that I’ve known plenty of men who fit the stereotype: emotionally controlled, disinclined to talk about matters of the heart, as apt to seek out solitude as connection focusing on action rather than talk.

Men grieve far more than we show or discuss. One of the biggest reasons for the misunderstandings on this subject is that we don’t talk about it, and we do a rather poor job of listening when women try to share their own grief or prod us to talk about ours.

We almost never cry in front of other men. If we feel that a woman is “safe,” we may cry with her. But most of our tears are shed when we are alone, perhaps while driving our vehicles. In all too many cases, our hot tears become a deep-freeze of anger or rage. Most very angry men are very sad men.

But these were the surface responses of men whose inward experiences were far more nuanced, changeable, and multidimensional than stereotypes can capture or assess.
The real picture was more complex.

Still, it can be helpful to bear in mind, without being rigidly attached to, the perspectives of researchers and clinicians convinced such differences are real. This perspective suggests that, as a group, men tend to be less expressive of their feelings—with the possible exception of anger—and that this disinclination to disclose or process emotions may actually intensify during times of stress and vulnerability.

So it is with grieving. When a cherished pet is critically ill or has died, men and women will not experience or express their reactions in the same way. Failure to understand and accept our different ways of grieving can result in hurt feelings and conflict between partners and among family members during a very difficult time. There are big decisions to be made – whether to proceed with expensive diagnostic procedures or treatments, choices about euthanasia, options for care of the pet’s body after death. There are goodbyes to be said and there is grief work to be done. Behaviors can be misinterpreted;
needs may be misunderstood; expectations may not be met.

Male grief has certain characteristics that are important for us to know. Otherwise we may assume that, when faced with the crisis of losing a beloved companion animal, real men don’t grieve.

Like everyone else in our Western culture, men are saddled with certain stereotypes.
Real men are supposed to be tough, confident, rational and in control, not only of themselves but of situations as well. Real men don’t cry, aren’t afraid of anything and wouldn’t be caught dead asking for directions, let alone for help. Real men know exactly
what to do in a crisis, and they’re strong enough to support the rest of the family, too. Add to these stereotypes the assumption that, if a man doesn’t express thoughts and feelings of grief the same way a woman does (by crying or by openly sharing with others, for example),
then he must not be grieving at all. If the grief doesn’t show, it must not be there!

Scientific studies indicate clear differences between the male and female brain, not only in how it is structured, but in how it is used as well. We know that the left side of the brain houses language skills, while the right side controls spatial problem-solving skills. That the connective tissue between the two sides (the corpus collosum) tends to be thinner in males than in females may explain why a man tends to use one side of his brain at a time,
while a woman uses both – and why a man is less able to verbalize what he is feeling. Other studies indicate that from puberty a male produces less of the tear-producing hormone prolactin, leaving him physiologically less able to cry.

So do real men grieve when they lose a beloved companion animal? Most certainly they do– but they may do so in an instrumental rather than an intuitive way.

In general, men tend to put their feelings into action, experiencing their grief physically rather than emotionally. They deal with their loss by focusing on goal-oriented activities which activate thinking, doing and acting. Rather than endlessly talking about or crying over his lost pet, for example, a man may throw himself into time-limited tasks such as digging the animal’s grave, constructing a burial box, carving a memorial marker, planting a memorial garden, or writing a poem or a eulogy. Such activities give a man not only a sense of potency and accomplishment as he enters his grief, but also a means of escaping it when the task is done.

If a man relates the details of his loss to his closest male friends, it’s likely to be around activities like hunting, fishing, sporting events and card games.

Although a man may let himself cry in his grief over losing his pet, he is more likely to do it alone, in secret or in the dark.

Regardless of the differences, the pressures of grief are still present for both men and women, and the tasks of mourning are the same: to confront, endure and work through the emotional effects of the pet’s death so the loss can be dealt with successfully. Grief must be expressed and released in order to be resolved, and men need encouragement to identify
and release emotions, to talk about and share their thoughts, and to accept help and support from others.

Research

There is evidence that men are more likely than women to remain silent or grieve in isolation, engage in action-oriented forms of grief expression, or lose themselves in distractions such as work or throwing themselves into a new relationship. Research suggests that men appear to be more susceptible to developing a reliance on alcohol or engaging in risk-taking behaviors following a loss and are more likely than women to commit suicide following the death of a spouse. Some studies suggest that men are more likely to use the strategies of avoidance, intellectualization, and minimization when grieving and, although research is inconsistent on the point, they may have a greater tendency to somaticize emotional and psychological pain

Grieving men may be at greater risk of death when compared with men of the same age who are not grieving. Some believe this may reflect the impact of internalized
stress or the effects of poor self-care. Others suggest that men tend to have smaller social networks than women and more difficulty asking for and accepting support,
making them less likely to receive, and more likely to reject, encouragement to prioritize one’s health .

Theories about purported gender patterns among those who are grieving tend to focus on biology, socialization, or a combination of the two. Biological hypotheses range from the impact of testosterone and the nervous system to concepts drawn from evolutionary psychology (such as speculation on the biological basis of role differentiation).

Psychologist Judith Stillion, PhD, CT, articulates one of the earlier arguments on behalf of the importance of socialization. During childhood, boys and girls receive different messages that profoundly impact the ways they grieve, she says. Boys, she believes, receive four fundamental messages about what it means to be a man and what constitutes proper male behavior. She refers to the first as “the stiff upper lip syndrome,” in which boys are taught that men must be strong and stoical in the face of difficulty and are discouraged from expressing vulnerability and encouraged to accept pain without complaint. The second is that a man must be in control at all times, self-reliant and able to handle any situation without asking for help. She calls this the”powerful loner stereotype.” The third message is that a man must protect and keep safe those who are important to him and never trouble them with his own struggles or concerns. The last is that a man must be ever ready to overcome any challenge without fear.

“I don’t need to talk to anyone as I can cope on my own!”

Doka and Martin suggest that men and women express their grief along a continuum of styles ranging from those that they call intuitive, centering on the expression
of affect, to those they call instrumental,which find expression physically and cognitively. Although they are careful to contextualize gender within a matrix of other variables—underscoring that no two people or groups will ever grieve exactly alike and that most prefer some blending of these styles—in general men seem to feel more comfortable with a style more heavily weighted toward the instrumental end.

Cultural Messages

Though we may hope boys in the rising generation of men are no longer receiving such rigid injunctions, many males continue to receive such messages as adults, even when grieving. I’ve worked with many men who report that when they’ve attempted to talk about their feelings or shed tears they have felt rebuffed or gotten the message, subtly or overtly, to “be strong,” “don’t cry,” “suck it up,” or “don’t make others feel uncomfortable.” Such experiences not only close down opportunities for connection and authentic support but also can undermine trust and reinforce stereotyped patterns and defenses tending toward isolation.

Cultural expectations about what constitutes healthy grieving hold that to heal, one has to speak about, process, and “work through” one’s thoughts and feelings by sharing them. Ideally this allows the bereaved to adapt to the world in the absence of their loved one while maximizing social support networks and reinvesting in other relationships and meaningful activities. Those who grieve silently rather than talking about their feelings may be labeled as excessively withdrawn, clinically depressed, or uncommunicative. Men who prize stoicism as an expression of independence or dignity, or as a way of not putting their burdens on others may be considered to be in in denial or out of touch. Men who engage in action-oriented expressions of grief, such as physical activity or private rituals away from the eyes of others, or who attempt to cope through distraction, positive thinking, planning for the future, or intellectualization may be accused of running away from their grief.

Though any of the above tendencies when taken to extremes or excessively relied upon can lead to complications, there is nothing inherently wrong or unhealthy about any of them. In fact, these tendencies may simply be a part of a style of grieving that social worker Tom Golden, LCSW, (2010) refers to as “the masculine side of healing.”

By this he means that there may be a style of grieving and healing that men gravitate to more readily than women. In his book Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing, he puts it as follows: “The masculine side of healing is not as accepted a mode of healing as the more traditional verbal and emotional expressions. It tends to be quieter and less visible, less connected with the past and more with the future, [and] less connected with passivity and more aligned with action. As a consequence, I have noticed repeatedly that people who use a predominance of this masculine side of healing are suspected
even by mental health professionals of ‘not really healing.'”

By thinking in terms of a style of healing in which men may feel more at home, we can better assess and appreciate the potentially useful aspects of this style in the larger context of one’s bereavement journey, rather than dismissing it as dysfunctional.

So is the inward experience of grief really different for men and women? Or is the pain simply more likely to find expression along gender lines? Maybe the
difference is not so much in the experience of grief itself but in how the pain of grief is absorbed, processed, and expressed, or what we typically call mourning.

Unquestionably, many men have inherited the messages described by Stillion—the powerful loner guarding emotion behind a wall of strength, unwilling to be vulnerable,
uncomfortable asking for support. But this response may be reflexive and potentially self-protective when one is feeling unsafe or overwhelmed. When the value of
such responses are affirmed and the boundaries they set respected, and when the language of action, silent gestures, personal codes of honor, are decoded and affirmed,
men often become more forthcoming about things which they had been struggling to carry alone.

If we mistakenly view a surface style as indicative of an unwillingness to connect or process on a deeper level, or if we discount this style as invalid, insisting that those for whom it is helpful are not doing the work of bereavement, we will miss opportunities to go beneath the surface and offer support. If we accept and respect what may be a masculine or instrumental style of healing, we can avoid the trap of stereotyped expectations and build trust by not dismissing these strategies or attempting to force ourselves beyond one’s defenses.

It must be remembered, of course, that this style, although it can become an avenue into healing, may also lead to serious complications, causing men to suppress or feel shame about normal thoughts, feelings, and difficulties which often attend grief, and potentially creating distrust when it comes to asking for or accepting support. It can also lead to isolation, relational conflict, undisclosed anxiety, depression, or a reliance on dangerous forms of escapism such as drinking or extreme risk-taking, possibly leading to premature death.

It’s also worth remembering that there are plenty of men who gravitate toward an intuitive style of mourning and many women who prefer one that tends toward the instrumental. And that these preferences may be more fluid than fixed, changing with the context, level of trust, and so on.

When the subject of gender differentials in grieving comes up among social workers, the conversations can get pretty lively. Some argue that, although we need to be careful not to overgeneralize, there are clear differences in style between men and women. Others may agree that it’s wise to be aware of ways gender socialization can impact one’s sense of self but distrust such generalizations because they can dull one’s sensitivity to nuance, subjectivity, and changeability when it comes to processing and healing from any significant loss.

The good news is most hospice and bereavement social workers are flexible and inclusive when it comes to these matters, incorporating multiple dimensions of experience and expression into their work, going beyond the traditional verbal explorations that have typified grief bereavement counseling in the past. They understand the need to take the time necessary to establish trust and safety. They respect a client’s defenses
and are sensitive to the ways these may be affected by gender. And most respect the potential value of solitude and of more action-oriented strategies for
coping and healing, whether these strategies are preferred by a man or a woman.

ADVICE

To better understand men who are grieving, it’s helpful to recognize that:

Our own gender biases may influence how we “read” another gender’s grieving.

Although men and women grieve differently, neither way is inappropriate. It is not helpful to take sides, supporting one way of grieving over another.The way we grieve is as individual as we are: some men grieve in traditionally “feminine” ways and some women grieve in traditionally “masculine” ways. What looks like inappropriate behavior may be a man’s way of avoiding feelings or displaying emotions publicly. A man should not be judged for how he is grieving. If a man seems more angry than sad at the death of his pet, he may just be angry at the situation – and anger may be the only way he knows to express his grief.
It’s useful in such cases not to take the man’s anger personally, or to react defensively against it.

Some men turn to drugs or alcohol in an effort to numb the pain of loss, or to lower their inhibitions so they can let loose their emotions.
They need to know that, because alcohol is a depressant, it will only add to the sadness they’re already feeling.

“One more drink and then I can get my work done for the day!”

Men are less likely to seek the support of others (either individually or in a group) in order to express (think, talk, cry, or write about) their feelings, especially if they don’t feel respected, or if they find certain aspects of grief to be embarrassing. A man needs encouragement to share his reactions and emotions, to explore what his pet’s death means to him, and to acknowledge how the loss affects his life.

Men often appear to be further along in the grieving process than they actually are. Even if a man appears to be all right, it is unwise to make assumptions about what he is feeling. When in doubt, ask!


HELPING A CHILD TO GRIEVE AFTER A LOSS OR DEATH

NEVER rush a child while they’re grieving, let them grieve and do what they can to release these emotions that they’re feeling. Just be patient and ready when they need to talk.

Remember, in my last post that I mentioned about that children don’t grieve after a loss or death? Well, that’s not a hundred percent, true. It’s quite the opposite.

Children and teenagers express their grief in a variety of ways. Some may be sad and verbalize the loss like many adults. Depending on their ages, however, they may show sadness only sometimes and for short periods. Children may complain of physical discomfort, such as stomachaches or headaches. Or they may express anxiety or distress about other challenges, such as school or sports.

Loss is more intense when the child had a close relationship with the person who died, such as a parent or sibling. However, this is not always obvious from a child’s reactions. A child’s grief may seem to come and go. And a child may rarely verbally express his or her grief. This is normal. Your child may also re-experience the intensity of the loss as he or she grows up. This may occur more often during certain milestones in life, such as starting school or going on a first date. Even into adulthood, important events such as graduating from college or getting married may trigger renewed grief.

Age has a large influence on childhood grief and how children understand and react to the death of a family member, friend, pet, or close adult.  It is good to know where a child is likely to fall developmentally.  This will help you to better understand how they view the loss and will help you to make age appropriate choices about language and interventions.

Of course age won’t help you to predict exactly how a child will react, other factors will have an impact as well.  Maturity, past experiences, education level, socio-economic status, what part of the world you live in, and access to support resources are merely a few of the many factors that influence us all.

Understanding how children and teens view death

It is helpful to know how children understand death at different stages of development. It varies by age and often changes as a child develops emotionally and socially. Other factors also influence children’s reactions. These can include personality, previous experiences with death, and support from family members. Keep in mind that children do not move abruptly from one stage of development to the next. And features from each stage may overlap.

It is advised that with children of any age or background you should do the following:

  1. Acknowledge their presence, their importance, their opinions, thoughts, and feelings.
  2. Be patient and open minded.  Allow them to grieve in their own way.
  3. Be available – Sit with the child, listen to them, and answer their questions.
  4. Reassure them the circumstances that led to the death were extreme and it is unlikely other adults in their lives will die any time soon (unless this is untrue).
  5. Let them know that a range of different emotions are normal.
  6. Validate their feelings and do not minimize them.
  7. Check in with other adults involved in their life – teachers, school counselors, coaches.Explain death using real words such as “died” rather than confusing phrases such as “gone to sleep.” You can say that death means the person’s body has stopped working or that the person can no longer breathe, talk, move, eat, or any of the things he or she could do when alive.
  8. Share your family’s religious or spiritual beliefs about death.
  9. Encourage your child to ask questions, and try to answer them honestly and directly. If you do not know the answer to a question, help find the answer.
  10. Use books, drawings, or role-play games to help a younger child understand death.
  11. Make sure your child understands that he or she is not to blame for the death and that the person who died is not coming back.
  12. Provide lots of affection and reassure your child often that he or she will continue to be loved and cared for.
  13. Encourage your child to talk about his or her emotions. Suggest other ways to express feelings, such as writing in a journal or drawing a picture.
  14. Without overwhelming your child, share your grief with him or her. Expressing your emotions can encourage your son or daughter to share his or her own emotions.
  15. Help your child understand that normal grief involves a range of emotions, including anger, guilt, and frustration. Explain that his or her emotions and reactions may be very different from those of adults.
  16. Reassure your child that it is normal for the pain of grief to come and go over time. Explain that they cannot always predict when they will feel sad.
  17. If your child is older, encourage him or her to talk with an adult outside the family, such as a teacher or a clergy member. You can also consider an age-specific support group.
  18. Keep routines and caregivers as consistent as possible, and continue setting limits on behavior. Care, consistency, and continuity help children feel safe.
  19. Encourage spending time with friends and engaging in other age-appropriate activities.Reassure your child that it is never disloyal to the person who died to feel happy and to have fun.

Addressing daily routine and role changes

The death of a parent or other close family member can directly affect a child’s day-to-day life. Family routines and roles change, such as a surviving parent having to return to work and spend less time at home. These changes are an added disruption and may add to a child’s distress. Even young children will benefit from extra preparation, conversations, and support around these transitions.

Although the death of a family member with cancer is painful, it may also lessen some of a child’s stress. For example, the death of a sibling might mean that a parent is not dividing time between a sick child at the hospital and another child at home. It is normal to have strong, mixed feelings, including some relief, when a family member’s suffering is over after a long or difficult illness. Help your child realize that these feelings are normal and that he or she should not feel guilty for having them.

Honoring and remembering the person who died

Children as young as age 3 understand the concept of saying goodbye. They should be allowed to choose how they say goodbye to a loved one.

  • Give preschool-age and older children the choice of attending memorial services. But do not force them to attend if they do not want to.
  • Some children may want to attend a memorial service but not a viewing or burial.
  • Allow older children and teenagers to help plan memorials if they want.
  • Talk with children about what will happen at a service ahead of time. Consider visiting the church or cemetery.
  • Ask a trusted adult to help take care of young children at a service or to go home with a child who decides he or she wants to leave early.
Give time and patience when the child is ready to talk to you about the loved one that you loss together. Never feel bad at bringing up some of the things that you remembered about your loss.

I have put together a list of typical grief responses by age.  Again, every child is different and we can’t quantify all the unique and individual qualities of your child in this list.  If your child reacts in a way that concerns you then it might be a good idea to talk things over with an expert like a pediatrician, school counselor, or child psychologist.

Infants (birth to 2 years)

  • Have no understanding of death.
  • Are aware of separation and will grieve the absence of a parent or caregiver.
  • May react to the absence of a parent or caregiver with increased crying, decreased responsiveness, and changes in eating or sleeping.
  • May keep looking or asking for a missing parent or caregiver and wait for him or her to return.
  • Are most affected by the sadness of surviving parent(s) and caregivers.

Preschool-age children (3 to 6 years)

  • Are curious about death and believe it is temporary or reversible.
  • May see death as something like sleeping. In other words, the person is dead but only in a limited way and may continue to breathe or eat after death.
  • Often feel guilty and believe that they are responsible for the death of a loved one, perhaps because they were “bad” or wished the person would “go away.”
  • May think that they can make the person who died come back if they are good enough.
  • May worry about who will take care of them and about being left behind.
  • Are very affected by the sadness of surviving family members.
  • Cannot put their feelings into words and instead react to loss through behaviors such as irritability, aggression, physical symptoms, difficulty sleeping, or regression (such as bed-wetting or thumb-sucking).

School-age children (6 to 12 years)

  • Understand that death is final.
  • May think of death as a person or a spirit, like a ghost, angel, or a skeleton.
  • By age 10, understand that death happens to everyone and cannot be avoided.
  • Are often interested in the specific details of death and what happens to the body after death.
  • May experience a range of emotions including guilt, anger, shame, anxiety, sadness, and worry about their own death.
  • Struggle to talk about their feelings. Their feelings may come out through behaviors such as school avoidance, poor performance in school, aggression, physical symptoms, withdrawal from friends, and regression.
  • May worry about who will take care of them, and will likely experience feelings of insecurity, clinginess, and abandonment.
  • May worry that they are to blame for the death.

Teenagers (13 to 18 years)

  • Have an adult understanding of the concept of death but do not have the experiences, coping skills, or behavior of an adult.
  • May act out in anger at family members or show impulsive or reckless behaviors, such as substance use, fighting in school, and sexual promiscuity.
  • May experience a wide range of emotions but not know how to handle them or not feel comfortable talking about them.
  • May question their faith or their understanding of the world.
  • May not be receptive to support from adult family members because of their need to be independent and separate from parents.
  • May cope by spending more time with friends or by withdrawing from the family to be alone.

To end this, help your child understand that the person who died lives on in his or her memory. Parents who are terminally ill sometimes leave letters, videos, or photographs to help children remember how much they were loved. Children can also compile pictures and other special items to create their own memory. For younger children, most of their knowledge of the person who died will come from memories of other family members. Talk about the person often, and remind children of how much the deceased person loved them. Over time, children can understand that they would not be who they are without the influence of the special person who died.