How to Cope with The Loss of a Sheltie
The loss of a Sheltie is heartbreaking. They were a member of the family, and while they were small in stature, their absence leaves a huge void behind.
There is a process to grief, one that eventually frees you of the pain you are in now, and allows you to think fondly of your Sheltie without suffering. If you're seeking support during this time, here are six ways to cope while the grief is at its sharpest.
Step 1. Be Kind to Yourself During Grief
If your friend lost their pet dog, you would instinctively advise them to slow down a little, be gentle on themselves, and give themselves time to grieve. But following this advice ourselves is not so easy.
The clinical psychologist, Dr Jordan Peterson, notes that most of us overlook self-care: we're better at giving medication to our pets than to ourselves.
That's because we're self-conscious creatures. We understand emotional abstractions like shame, disgust, anger, and loathing. Unlike our Shelties, we know ourselves to be tragically and fundamentally flawed.
This awareness can prevent us from taking care of ourselves because we may feel like we don't really deserve it. Our instinct could be to punish ourselves, to be devoured by our pain, rather than to treat ourselves like someone we're responsible for helping.
If any of this strikes a cord, push yourself to take the counter-intuitive approach. Accept that you are grieving for the loss of your Sheltie, and that calls for kindness.
You gave your Sheltie a good life, free from fear and harm. You gave them love and companionship for years. Now it's time to mirror that love to yourself.
Step 2. Allow Yourself to Cry Every Day
Your primary goal right now is to stay healthy, for the sake of you and your loved ones. Attending to your emotional state will help relieve the profound stress that arises from grief.
Don't let this difficult time to tip you into depression, which is a long and soul-destroying road. Face your grief by taking dedicated time to make peace with your loss and seek a new path forward.
That means allowing yourself to cry as much as you need. Crying releases stress hormones from your body and is psychologically cathartic. It opens you to the full force of your emotions and allows supressed feelings to rise to the surface.
Crying is healthy. Some experts swear by it as a daily routine, as a way of purging all those trapped feelings out of the body. Let them out—then let them go. When you've finished crying, focus on positive affirmations and do something productive that you enjoy, whether it's reading a good book, cooking a meal for your family, or going for a walk in the fresh air.
Step 3. Share Your Grief with Someone You Trust
Another way to release your feelings of loss is to talk about them with people you trust. This may feel difficult to initiate, especially if you fear you're being a burden on your friends and family.
Turn the tables on that thought. If your loved one was suffering, you would want them to share their troubles with you. Not only do these conversations develop our relationships by creating mutual intimacy and trust, they are exactly what you need right now to work through your grief.
It's also likely that your Sheltie had an impact on your friend's life, too. They may want to share fond memories with you, and remind you what a wonderful life your Sheltie had.
That wonderful life is now complete and set in stone forever. The memories you shared with your Sheltie are yours to hold close as you navigate a new life forward, and go on to care for other people and animals in future.
Step 4. Hold a Memorial Service for Your Sheltie
If it feels right, hold a memorial service at your house and invite all those who loved your Sheltie. Just as we hold funerals, pet memorials are a healthy way for people to come together in their grief and say a fond farewell. It's also a productive and practical focus for your energies during the sharpest time of grief.
Pet memorial services don't have the same structure and appearance as funerals. You can make it a unique and personal event to celebrate the loving times you had with your Sheltie. Hold it in your home or back yard, where you spent a lot of time with your Sheltie, and invite others to share stories about your dog's antics and adventures.
Some people find it very help to keep their Sheltie close with a pet urn. There are some beautiful cremation urns out there, and you can choose one that reflects your Sheltie's personality. Keep it in a special place with a favorite photo. Visit the urn when you want to think about your Sheltie, and talk to them about your happy memories.
Step 5. Seek Closure and Acceptance
Closure is a vital element of grieving. Some people are reluctant to seek closure because they misunderstand its purpose. This isn't about forgetting your Sheltie; that can never happen. The impact they had on your life shapes who you are today. They are written into your personality and the way you project love for all animals.
Closure is about accepting that your Sheltie has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. That is a tragic knowledge to bear, and right now denying it feels so much easier. But in time, the acceptance will come if you allow it, and you will be eased of this tremendous sadness.
One way to create closure is to be productive: cancel your pet insurance, clean your home of dog hair, and tidy away their toys and accessories. Your Sheltie's safe space is now in their urn, or if you chose to scatter their ashes, in the roots of a sacred plant regenerating life in your back yard.
There will be moments of heartache, like when you notice your home no longer has your Sheltie's smell, or when you sit down on the couch and feel their warmth missing from your lap. This is the time to visit their urn or look through their photo book, so you can remember them when they were joyful, rather than focus on their absence.
Step 6. Volunteer Your Time
There is a big hole in your life and in your heart. That's the essence of grief: a profound sadness and longing for what's been lost. Some people seek out a new pet to fill that void, while others find this idea abhorrent. Both are valid and healthy responses to the loss of a Sheltie, and you have to decide what feels right for you.
It can help tremendously to spend time helping other animals, who desperately need the love you have to give. Lookup your local animal shelter and ask if they need any volunteers, whether it's on a short term or long term basis. Volunteering can be hugely rewarding as well as offering social opportunities, taking the place of negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness.
Rescue shelters often need volunteers to feed, bathe, groom, entertain, and walk their dogs. If spending time with other dogs is too painful, find a shelter caring for other domestic animals, or choose a charity to help with admin and fundraising.
You can also volunteer in non-animal related work, like caring for the environment, children with disabilities, or adults suffering from mental health issues. There are lots of ways you can help the world right now, and in doing so, help yourself.
Coping with the loss of a Sheltie is hard, but I hope this advice has shown you there are ways forward out of this tremendous sadness. Focus on the fact that your Sheltie had a good life, that every day you spent with them made their world better. And while that life is now complete, they will live on in your heart forever.