dealing with grief

Dealing with Grief: 5 Ways to Commemorate the Loss of a Loved One

I mentioned in the Junto last week that I’ve been struggling with some things since my return from Honduras in late January.

For one, 6 hours after we got back, Maria and I were in a pretty serious car accident. Luckily our ride took the brunt force of the impact – because it might have had much worse results.

Car was pretty much totalled.


Unfortunately, the bad news didn’t stop there.

It wasn’t long until we found out from our vet that our two aging labradors weren’t doing all that great healthwise. One was having seizures while the other one was starting to not eat.

There’s a good chance that the one with the seizures (Sable) has a tumor in her head. We were able to start her on medication.  The second one, Sadie, who wasn’t eating – well, apparently, cancer was getting to her too.

More specifically, she had developed liver cancer. I imagine it was already stage 4 by the time we figured out that anything was wrong. When the results came back from her ultrasound, the veterinarian said that it had spread all throughout her body – including possibly her lungs and bladder.

Our hearts dropped. But we were committed to keeping her comfortable in whatever form we could.

After a few weeks of trying to feed her things we thought she’d like, it finally got to a point where we were having to force feed her Ensure by injecting it into her mouth.

Not only was this difficult for us, but Maria and I were pretty sure that it was traumatizing for her.

This couldn’t be comfortable. So it was about this time that we had to make the decision to euthanize her.

Last Friday was her departure day. It’s now Monday. And I’m moving forward without one of the angels that mom left me.

RIP Sadie. We’ll always love you.


4 Ways to Cope with Grief

So, this post could totally stop there. But I don’t want to leave you all on a downer note. Sure, as someone going through grief, I have the right to just lock myself in a room with no contact to the outside world.

I don’t see how that is beneficial to anyone. Personally, doing that too long drives me crazy. I tried it again this weekend by pretty much “Netflixed and chilling” all weekend. I can only do that for so long before losing my mind!

As a creative, I feel it’s necessary to take action to get through my grief. And in fact, it’s through action that I was able to get through the passing of my mom back in 2010-2011.

Of course, I’ve learned a few things since then about how to cope with grief. So here’s a few things that I plan on doing myself or things I know others have done after losing a loved one.


1. Reach Out to Others

We don’t have all the answers. So something you can probably do right now using the same device you’re reading this on is to hop onto online message boards, Facebook groups, or even jump on Meetup to find a support group in your area that you can check in with. Often, another person who has experienced loss is better suited to understand what you’re going through.

That said, if your grief is preventing you from functioning, perhaps you can take it another notch up and seek professional help. You might be suffering from depression and if that’s the case, it’s usually pretty hard to get off that slippery slope on your own.


2. Perform a Good Deed

A simple thing you can do is donate in their name.

When my mom passed, I told the funeral home to donate anything people sent to the local animal shelter. This weekend, Maria and I did the same for Sadie – we contributed to a dog food pantry in her name.

That said, perhaps you want to put a bit of time into it. I know plenty of people who have done a 5k or 10k in memory of a friend. I also have heard of folks who started volunteering in place of their missing friend.

If you lost a pet, maybe it’s time to start caring for other pets. One option is volunteering. Or you can actually become a dog sitter on Rover.


3. Perform a Ritual or Spiritual Ceremony

Depending your own personal beliefs, there are a few different ways to mark the end of your loved one’s life in a special ceremony.

If your friend has been cremated, there’s a few options you can take.

You can go as simple as planting a tree. Tree planting ceremonies are pretty common these days. I think that’s a great idea because in a way, your friend continues to live on through the new tree.

Want something a bit more permanent? Perhaps a headstone might be a better option.

Maybe you’re religious. If so, perhaps you and your loved ones can say a prayer as you scatter ashes in a favorite place. While I haven’t spread ashes myself, I know if I was going to spread my mom’s ashes, I’d do it off of a sand dune near Empire, Michigan.

Here’s a third option that I thought was pretty cool for pets: open their collar. I heard that this allows their spirit to run free. Then take the collar and put it in a place that you see regularly so you don’t forget them – such as where you hang their leashes or your keys.

Finally, you could create a time capsule. Stick all kinds of things in it from them. If it’s a pet, it could be their favorite toys, a stick from their favorite park, or maybe a rock from their favorite walking path. Five or ten years from now when the grief has subsided a bit, you can take it out and reflect on how much they brought to your life.


4. Create Something!

If you’re a creative like me, then perhaps exercising that creativity is what will help you out. For me, writing this post is soothing. Once it’s posted, I know it will be out on the web helping others cope with their grief.

If you’re not the writing type and more of a maker, there’s tons of things you can do! Just off the top of my head, here’s a few things: creating a scrapbook (if you have Google Photos, that will help you organize all the pictures in your phone), a quilt (my mom was a huge fan of quilts), a portrait (had one at my mom’s funeral), or heck – maybe making jewelry or creating a garden is your thing.

Guess it really depends on what you feel comfortable doing… but I’m almost certain that “tributing” whatever you create to your friend will help.


5. Positively Fill the Void Left Behind

Even if you’re on this healing path, there’s always going to be a missing part of you when your loved one moves on. There will be times where you just want to be with them but can’t.

Perhaps the reason they were in your life in the first place was because they filled a void you had before they were in your life.

I know that this was the case with Sadie. Mom got her because she shared a house with our emotionally unavailable cat. From day one, Sadie did a great job of filling up the void I had left.

If you have your own void, perhaps it’s a good idea to consider finding a new friend or companion. Of course this is a very personal decision and when to do so will vary from person to person.

More specifically when it comes to pets, it may be tempting to rush out and get another one.

However, in most cases, it’s best to mourn the previous pet first. Wait until you’re emotionally ready to open your heart and your home to a new friend.

Again, you may want to start by volunteering in your local 4-H dog group, a local shelter, or rescue group. Spending time caring for pets in need is not only great for the animals, but can help you decide if you’re ready to own a new pet.


Action Steps

Thank you guys for dropping in on this post. As we all know, death is one of those certain things and we all deal with loss differently. I hope that these ideas help you move forward in your life after your loss – whether it be a person or a furry friend.

If there’s anything that you’ve heard people do during their grieving period, I’d love to hear about it. As I said, I want this to be a bit of a “internet memorial” for Sadie, so the more good advice the better!

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