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  • Writer's pictureMarybeth Haines

Anticipatory Grief - What Do I Do & How Can I Take Care Of Everyone?

Anticipatory grief is something that tugs at our heartstrings and that can be challenging. We often feel like we don’t want to talk about it because it’s hurts too much. It is however a topic that I feel is very important to address because if we don’t, it will start to become an elephant in the room so to speak and build from there.


When a terminal diagnosis is made for a pet we love so much, it can be devastating and if you are reading this right now and are going through this, thank you for being here. In this dedicated article, we will spend some time discussing ways that you can move through this. First, let’s start by taking a deep breath together and then hold space for one another. This is a safe space and one with support.


What is Anticipatory Grief?


Experiencing a diagnosis of cancer for example and caring for your pet is a lot to go through. And I’d like to empower you with some things you can do to help you help your beloved furry family member the best way that you can.


When a diagnosis is given and your body and mind are still adjusting to it all, you might begin to feel overwhelmed, feel disbelief, fearful or frightened, sad, angry and many emotions can start to surface. Knowing that at some point in the coming days or months, you will likely face stressful situations and very tough decisions.


This is what is called Anticipatory Grief and when the the reality of loss begins to be felt emotionally.


How Can I Help My Pet Best?


Having a team of veterinary professionals and support is key at this time. You will want to assess your pet’s quality of life and implement healthful changes to their environment (diet, supplements or medications, assistive devices within the home if needed etc). Your professional team will help you with all of the items you should be looking at.


Once that is in place, it’s time to move forward step by step.


Who is taking care of you when you are busy taking care of your pet?


Let’s face it…life is busy and many times on a good day, we don’t have a lot of time for self care. I remember going through this with my guy Mr. Mooshie. I remember feeling that if I were to take time for myself, even if just for a few minutes, that I was being selfish and taking away my time and care I could be giving to him. Then I started having meltdowns at work and stresses I normally could handle were no longer able to be done so. It was then that I realized that in order to help Mr. Mooshie in the best way was to make sure I was taking care of me too. Animals are intuitive and Mooshie was picking up on my stresses.


A study was done on a group of people who worked 8 – 10 hours a day, had breaks and time to themselves and another group who worked 14 – 16 hours a day, didn’t take the breaks they needed and completely disregarded any time for self. The results were that the first group had very satisfactory productivity and were able to handle stressful situations easier. The second group, although still did good work, their productivity was significantly reduced, therefore taking longer to get it done and done well. They become more sick easily and some even needed to take time off because of this. What is the message here? Self care and rest is so very important.


Car Accident Analogy: I’d like to give you another example here and it’s called the “Car Accident Analogy”. If someone were to get into a car accident, there is a plausible chance that an injury could occur. Car accidents happen quickly without notice and brings our body’s systems into the “fight or flight mode”.


Our cortisol and adrenals become supercharged and we feel the effects of the stress. Now let’s take this a little bit further. What about the potential injuries from a car accident? One may have bumps, bruises, stitches, broken arm or leg or maybe even requiring surgery.


If this happened to you, would you not give yourself the time you needed to be able to heal from this? You would go to the doctor, get physical rehabilitation services, maybe go to a specialist who offers other alternative healing therapies.


My question to you right now is, when experiencing a diagnosis of cancer with your beautiful dog who is a family member and friend, you body goes through the exact same process as if it were in a car accident. You may not have a broken leg, but you you have a broken heart. You may not have stitches or bruises on the outside, but you most certainly do on the inside don’t you? And receiving a diagnosis like this will provide a shock to the system and your emotions and nervous system are responding the same way as if you were in fight or flight. Do you see where I’m getting at here?


TAKING THE TIME FOR YOU IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.


SELF CARE


Self Care is Important But How Do I Practice it? I don’t know where to start!


Step 1 – Permission: Give yourself permission for self care. What you are going through is valid and important to have support for. When you take the time you need, you can feel better and also help your dog in the best way as well. Step 2 – Create a Safe Space: Find a safe space that is just for you. It could be a place in your home, outside in nature or anywhere you would be most comfortable. Claim this space as your safe space and treat it as such. Tell everybody in the home this is where you will be and you do not wish any interruptions unless it’s absolutely necessary.

We all resonate with different things that make sure feel good. Like nature, it brings me peaceful feelings and helps to ground me. It also helps rerelease emotions in a safe way.I feel safe when I’m near trees and nature.


SELF CARE ACTIVITIES:


During the time in your safe space, you might wish to:

  • JOURNAL

  • READ

  • MEDITATE/PRAY

  • HAVE TIME TO RELEASE EMOTIONS SUCH AS CRYING.

  • WALK IN NATURE

  • LISTEN TO MUSIC

  • WATCH A COMEDY

  • SOAK IN A HOT BATH

  • SCRAPBOOKING OR SOMETHING THAT IS A HOBBY YOU ENJOY

  • GOING TO THE GYM, YOGA, PILATES

  • GO OUT FOR DINNER OR A TEA

  • …ANYTHING YOU FEEL WILL BE HELPFUL TO YOU

Bottom line, this time is a time where you will include something that will help you and be of interest to your needs.


Step 3 – Support System: Whether it be a family member, friend, a pet related support circle or a professional certified in this area, having a support system is very important. Should you feel you need support when navigating this journey, there are resources available to you.




By taking the time to take care of you while taking care of your pet, you are giving yourself the gift of support. Because only you can do this, it’s important to have the right supports in place and to remind you that you are not alone. Grieving, both before and after a loss is hard. Help is available and by implementing these steps above, can give so much to you and your beloved pet as you work together as a team in a caring, compassionate manner.


With love and many hugs,


Marybeth

Marybeth & Mr. Mooshie









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