Guest blog by : Coleen Ellis

It’s that merry time of year. Everyone around seems to be cheerful and full of glee, with the carols cranking everywhere one turns. People putting on their happy faces, their good faces as if Santa is truly watching.

But not everyone feels this is the most beautiful time of the year. For some, whether it’s the first holiday season without a beloved pet, or a time of year when the presence of the absence of a precious love is most close at heart, this feels like possibly the saddest time of the year.

For some, there’s no joy. There’s no cheer. And, there certainly feels like there is nothing to be thankful and blessed about.

The holidays have come crashing in and are here in full force. It is possible to survive the holidays when you feel like just running away, hiding under a rock until January 2nd and life can resume without all of this happiness and joy in the air. When life returns to normal, or this new normal as it is, and you can have your sadness and no one notices, or tries to be convincing that putting on a happy face will magically remove all of the hurt.

No, life won’t return to the old normal when a beloved pet was still a physical part of life, but rather it will be the new normal, without that love physically present.

You can survive the holidays without hiding under a rock. If you’re reading this, I want you to know I give you permission. Permission for these little ways to survive this time of year:

  • Be kind to yourself. If you feel the tears coming, let them come. Stop beating yourself up and telling yourself that you should be somewhere other than where you are right now in your grief journey. Be kind and gentle to yourself. Treat yourself like you’d treat a dear friend. Be kind, gentle, and patient.
  • Know that where you are right now in your grief journey is exactly where you should be. Nowhere else. If this is the first holiday season without your beloved pet, know that it will be hard when all of those family rituals begin and the stark reality of your precious pet’s death yet again slaps you in the face. When the ornaments come out and you see his name, be kind to yourself when the tears present themselves. And, for every other time during the holidays when the sad reality of the new normal of your life presents itself, again, be kind to yourself and welcome the tears. For with the tears, you are truly getting a beautiful reminder that for a part of your life, it was real. Tears are for the strong at heart, not for the weak. The strong hearts welcome the tears, the weak hearts push them away. Welcome those tears.
  • Continue to honor the story of the life you shared with your beloved pet. Hang her stocking with the rest of the stockings, put his ornament on the tree. Continue to make them a real and tangible part of your family’s holiday rituals, and again allowing yourself the reminder that this part of your life was very real. Another idea is that you have a special spot in your holiday decorations that is all about these lost loves in your life. A special tree with ornaments that were just hers. A beautiful candle surrounded by memorable family photos. A gift under the tree, wrapped up for your special pet and holding items to donate in their memory to a local shelter or rescue group. Honor them still as a part of your family rituals.

For this time of year, when love, joy, cheer and presents are abound, take some time and remember all of the gifts that this beloved animal brought to you. Nothing in a box, tied neatly and beautifully with a holiday bow, but even more precious than that. Their presence alone was the best and only gift they had to offer to us, and they did that in only the way that an animal’s unconditional love can do.

Coleen Ellis is currently partners with Nick Paldo and created a brand of pet memorial centers, The Pet Loss Center.  She shares her home in Southlake, TX, with her husband, Chris Burke, and their four four-legged children, Ellie Mae, Crisco, Harry and Rudy.