Grief is what we feel at loss. The loss of a person, a four-legged buddy, or your past way of life. Everyone grieves and copes differently. But even though we all grieve in different ways, we all need to cope. Coping with pet loss is no different. Walking can be a coping tool for all loss, including pet loss. As hard as it may be to start walking to cope with grief, it’s a tool that most of us can use as we cope with loss of any sort.
Planned walking for coping with pet loss
I walk regularly. Walking for me is usually for my physical self-care. But, walking can be for mental health as well. On this day, walking is for my mental well-being. I got on the treadmill after being away from it for a few days. After 2 miles, I got off the treadmill. Then, I got ready for the next exercise event I had mentally planned so I could start to feel better. I had suffered yet another pet loss that I needed to heal from.
Over the weekend, I lost my seemingly healthy 12 year old cat. He was a very cool cat that acted like a dog. Everyone loved him, including all my granddaughters. He is the third fur baby I have lost in 3 years. His death was very unexpected as he had passed his vet check-up less than a month ago with flying colors. He was eating, drinking, playing and being his normal self. I have a hole in my heart. I haven’t really gotten over the loss of my last two pets, and was cherishing the “wellness” of my remaining fur baby.
My planned strategy for coping with pet loss
What was my planned exercise event? I got off the treadmill and went to a canine rescue shelter that allows volunteers to walk the dogs. I knew I needed to do this for my mental health to help healing. The walking of the shelter dog was purely selfish. But, I just knew it would help me and help whatever dog was allowed to escape for the 30 minute walk. It was a calculated move for my mind that was a win-win. I can’t wait to go back.
Walking for mental health
So how does walking help our mental health and just plain old coping? Here are some reasons researchers have suggested walking can help lift our mood and help our mental health.
Fatigue. Regular walking can actually alleviate physical fatigue. Physical fatigue begets mental fatigue. I know when I have experienced severe emotional stress, I always feel physically exhausted. As exhaustion lessens, our minds are better able to refocus and cope with life.
Better sleep. We don’t need to be a scientist to know that a good night’s sleep can be magical. A good sleep allows our mind to start healing and lets us get through the next day more effectively. Better sleep casts a better light on EVERYTHING life throws at us.
Hormones. Some hormones will be increased and others lowered. The shifts in the hormones are of benefit to our brain. Walking releases mood lifting hormones called endorphins. Endorphins reduce pain and improve our mood. At the same time, mild exercise can decrease the stress related hormone called cortisol. While we need cortisol, we don’t need the blood levels that come along with chronic stress.
And walking in sunshine? Even better! The sun will allow your body to make vitamin D which will boost serotonin levels. Increased serotonin levels is a known mood booster.
RIP my Louis. You loved hanging with me by the computer and the treadmill. We had a nice visit in Michigan on the porch just before you left me. I am so glad you were able to see all the birds and do your goofy chirp.
Coping for self and supporting others
When losing a pet, there’s no doubt the pain is pretty universal. We all grieve differently and for varying amounts of time. With that said, we never forget our fur babies and they are held in our hearts forever. If you are supporting yourself or a friend in grieving for a pet, you can share your support in various ways. I know I’ve personally sent sympathy cards, flowers, and even framed photos of pets to friends that have lost their pets. And, I’ve appreciated the same during my times of loss. It is is comforting to know others are thinking about your loss.
Grieving moves in stages. The passing of time helps our wounds. Have you walked or turned to physical activity to help soothe the process? Please share.