Cheers to the December Bereaved

December again…

The holiday season. If it puts stars in your eyes anticipating the warmth, the cheer, the reunions around a well-appointed table, even the hope of unwrapping that gift you really want, please take a moment to appreciate how lucky and/or blessed life can be at the end of the year, a solid celebration bringing hope for even better things in the years to come.

But raise a glass for those who may have suffered a great trauma or a great loss smack-dab in the middle of a holiday season in their history. There is no denying that there is a significant number of our friends and acquaintances for whom the tinsel and lights bring only grief, sometimes in a raging rush for having been avoided throughout the large part of the year.

On this page, we are concerned with those holiday grievers whose hatred for the season comes from the loss of a beloved pet. Only a fool could deny that a dog or cat can be as strong a connection to life for their owner as a human blood relation. Sometimes stronger, depending on the family situation.

How to reclaim happy holidays in the case of that kind of loss is an ongoing process of growth and development, one that there is no shame in seeking assistance with. Solutions of any worth are as hard-earned as they are few and far between. And we are not medical professionals.

But we know and care about loved ones who have made a frightful decision: “I will never get another pet. Ever. They’ll just break my heart too, in ten or twelve years, and I won’t have that.” To hear them say it is like dipping your toe in a lake of such sadness that you shiver and step back only to see them swimming around in it, and you shudder all over again. All the times you’ve seen them pay rapt attention to pet-themed shows and commercials come back to you, all the stories about their friends’ animals that only a pet lover would tell or listen to, that they repeat so wistfully, resound in your ears until you’re fighting back tears for your loved one’s grief. And then there are the powerful times when they mention the specific lost furry one.

Tell them they are not alone. Have them read these few words. Let them know about a time in your life that you lost someone or something and like them, went through those famous states of anger, denial, bargaining and depression, sometimes concurrently, sometimes consecutively, and it did feel like a sentence passed down by a not-so-impartial judge. Don’t make up something you never really felt, and don’t preach. And don’t show up with a baby animal as a gift. You may not get the desired response.

Just remember that sometimes the only holiday miracle (and it is) that someone you know needs is someone like you just reaching out and saying, in words or actions, “Hey. I feel ya.”

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