Coping With the Loss of Your Horse

The loss of a horse can be one of the most profoundly difficult experiences a horse owner can have.  The loss may be from natural causes such as illness or old age, or it may be from an accident or an equestrian’s life circumstances. The loss may be anticipated or unexpected. It may be complicated by the necessity of having to make the choice to euthanize a beloved friend and companion. 

Whatever the circumstances of the loss, a process of grieving will ensue. Although clinical research outlines identifiable stages of grief, (shock, denial, guilt, anger, fear, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance), my treatment experience shows that these stages are fluid and can reoccur.  Grieving is a not linear process, it is an ebb and flow of deep thoughts and feelings, an unfolding that slowly moves you towards resolution, integration, and acceptance of losing a loved one.  

There is no right way to grieve. How you mourn your loss will be personal and unique to you. The most important thing is to allow the process to unfold and to know that whatever is happening to you is a natural result of your loss and, as best you can, to accept your experience without judgment. Try to make a commitment to grieve consciously by being present to whatever is happening moment to moment.

You may experience a wide range of thoughts and feelings that come and go again and again, or you may simply feel numb and devoid of all feelings. You may want to connect with others to help you through your loss, or you may want to withdraw and isolate yourself for a bit of time to privately absorb the impact of the shock. In whatever manner you find yourself grieving, it is important to take good care of yourself -- even if you do not have the desire or the energy to do so.  Eat as best you can, rest, and exercise when you feel ready.  It is very important to give yourself opportunities to be with, and feel your emotions.  Sometimes this can be difficult, and it may be helpful to talk with someone you trust and who will understand what you are going through.  That may be a friend, a family member, a member of the clergy, a support group, or a counselor or therapist. Be willing to follow your impulses:  if you want to cry – cry; if you want to yell – yell; if you want to sleep – sleep; if you want to write, draw, dance, or sing – do so.  If you want to do nothing at all, that’s okay too.

Remember, that grief is a natural process that cannot be rushed or shortened.  Nature gives us the incredible gift of mourning to help us consolidate our loss, strengthen our psyche and soul, and to increase our resilience and resourcefulness.  Conscious grieving allows us to take what seemed unimaginable and unbearable and transform it into strength, wisdom, and acceptance. It helps us grow a more generous heart and to stay heart connected to our beloved friend and partner who has moved on to live in Spirit.  Let this beautiful gift from nature be your support and vehicle to honor your horse and bring deeper meaning to the beauty and miracle of both life and death.

Copyright 2008 -2010. Doris J. Worcester, LICSW

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