How to cope when your pet has been diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness during Covid19 – by Claire Chew, M.A., CCFS
It’s been almost a year since the pandemic reared its ugly head. We’ve all had to adapt to so many new ways of living and being. Six feet apart, no hugs, masks, no masks, queue in lines for groceries, curfews, no indoor dining, take out only, etc. One positive thing has been having our furry family members with us during a lockdown. For those living alone, their pet may be the only physical touch source and hugs for months.
Just when we feel we can’t take any more stress, a beloved pet is diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness. Because animals can’t speak and tell us how they are feeling, we feel the burden of making decisions on their behalf. If one’s job or finances has been impacted by Covid19, hard choices might have to be made. How do I pay bills, food, utilities, rent and take care of Buster?
Looping thoughts of “how will I get through this?” “I can’t bear the thought of losing him” or other future worries can keep us up at night.
There’s a saying, “what we focus on expands.” While having these thoughts may be a way to feel like we have control over a situation that we simply do not, there’s another way to get through challenging times.
Below are five ways you can help reduce thoughts of the worst is to come. Our brain is naturally wired towards negativity. Instead, try to focus on all that we ARE already doing to help our animal friend. Documenting also helps as a log of what actually happened. (As imperfect humans, we are really good at being hard on ourselves, and this is not a time to do that)
5 WAYS TO REDUCE STRESS OF CARING FOR A SICK PET
1) begin a daily journal practice.
2 write down and describe things that are happening, because sometimes what causes anxiety isn’t what is happening, but our concerns about what can happen from here on out.
3) write down what you can and cannot control.
4) write down what you are grateful for here and now.
5) from your list, write down some ways you can help yourself with your stress. Maybe it’s amping up your self-care, lighting a candle, listening to soothing music (like Animal Requiem)
We have already experienced so much loss in 2020 with Covid19. Loss of routine, loss of freedom, loss of friends, or loved ones, it’s complicated grief we as a society are not used to looking at. Adding to this, the potential loss of a pet can feel like the last straw.
As corny as it sounds, we have to make space for grief. Instead of numbing out to cope, try to express whatever grief is coming up for you, let yourself feel all the feels. Use this time as an opportunity to look at creative ways to create more memories with your beloved furry family member with the remaining days you have. Create a bucket list, plan a drive to your favorite spot for hikes, make time for extra snuggles.
Also, you don’t have to go this alone. Reach out to friends who understand what you are going through, or local mental health services your area to speak to a pet loss hotline, or look online for a pet bereavement counselor. Help is available.