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Thursday, March 22, 2018

GRIEVING THE LOSS OF YOUR HORSE

It has been six weeks since I lost my beautiful Jazz and I can't stop hurting. I cry at the mere thought of him. If anyone asks me about him, or worse yet, when those that don't know ask if I am getting ready for show season, I start crying. Then I find myself apologizing because I know this makes them feel uncomfortable. At public speaking engagements, I am asked how many horses I have and I say "Three...um, two." Then I feel the tears stinging the backs of my eyes again!

I realized that some of you may have gone through or are going through the same grieving process that I am. I have been reading articles about grieving the loss of a pet and have learned that it is just the same as grieving the loss of a human family member. (We all know that our horses are part of our family, especially if we have had them for a long time. I had Jazz for 12 and 1/2 wonderful years!) I am going through the same stages of grieving that is normal for anyone. I even got mad at God for a while. "Why would you take Jazz from me?" I cried aloud. I am trying to develop more gratitude for the 12 and 1/2 years He let me have such an amazing horse and realize that there are very few people in the entire world who ever get to ride a horse like that!

This is what I learned:
1. ALLOW YOURSELF TO GRIEVE. How you grieve is very personal and each person reacts differently. Let the tears come when they need to and, unlike me, you don't need to apologize. Don't rush it. There is no time limit on grieving...no time at which you "should be over it!"

2. TAKE TIME TO REFLECT ON THE LIFE YOU SHARED WITH YOUR HORSE. You may just need to find a quiet place to think, or look through pictures, or handle those beautiful ribbons or that soft, leather bridle, or stand in the middle of his stall and just breathe. Maybe, like me, you need to write about your horse or talk to friends, especially those who also knew him and the two of you together. Several of my horse friends took me out to lunch to just talk about Jazz. Yes, I cried right there in the restaurant, but I laughed, too.

3. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AS YOU GRIEVE. As silly as it sounds, grieving is taxing on the body. Eat nutritious meals...don't bing on junk food! And get both exercise...very important...and sleep.

4. MAINTAIN ROUTINES WITH YOUR LIVING ANIMALS. I still have two wonderful horses that need my love and care as well as a bouncy new standard poodle puppy that needs to be played with. It first I didn't think I could face Jazz's empty stall by going into the stable. But Hardy and Kit needed me, so I went. It was awful but I did it. Kit and Hardy knew something was wrong and they seemed almost depressed. I gave them lots of treats and rubs. The puppy, well, she's a puppy...she just wants to play and that makes me laugh.

5. MEMORIALIZE THE MEMORY AND LOVE OF YOUR HORSE. I believe that animals have souls and inherit eternal life just as we do. While it brings me great comfort to know that I will be with Jazz again, I needed something tangible here and now. The vet sent me a braid of his tail hair intertwined with red ribbon and I had a picture of him blown up and framed. Yes...as you might guess, both make me cry but remember, that's okay.

6. SEEK SUPPORT FROM UNDERSTANDING FRIENDS AND RELATIVES.  I have been blessed with a wonderful husband, children, and friends, both horsey and non-horsey. Fortunately, my husband, Tom, was in town when the vet called to tell me to come say goodbye. He took we and hugged me as I hugged Jazz. A few days after Jazz's passing, I told Tom that I was blaming him because if he hadn't bought that wonderful horse for me, I wouldn't be hurting so much now. He just nodded and said, "I'll take the blame." I also received flowers, cards, candy, cakes and even a "heart attack" (where your house is decorated with cut out hearts and love notes.) I didn't handle some offers of kindness very well. When friends would ask, "What can I do?" all I could say was "Bring Jazz back." Frankly, that was my true feeling.

I hope this will help someone out there in internet land. I adapted this list from an article titled "7 Self-Care Essentials While Grieving the Death of a Pet" by Adam Clark LCSW< AASW

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