Grief Support Writing:
How to Write and Share Your Story of Pet Loss

by Harley King


(This article is copyrighted 1998 by Harley King and is excerpted from It's Okay To Cry, a book on pet loss. Permission to reprint must be requested in writing from the author and the publisher, K & K Communications.)

The Power of Writing to Heal the Pain

"One of the best salves for healing the pain and grief that you feel is that of writing. The process of putting your feelings, thoughts, and experiences down on paper will give you the opportunity to work through the pain and the sorrow."

Unfortunately, many people in our society don't feel they can write. Many feel that writing is something for professionals with creative talents. It is
not something that the common person can aspire to. Yet the writing process is one of the most powerful techniques you have for clarifying your feelings and working through your emotions. By opening yourself up and expressing your pain and grief on paper, you will release the emotions that are suffocating and depressing you. Giving vent to our anger and pain through writing sets us free.

14 Guidelines for Grief Support Writing

I want to share with you a process that if you follow it will begin to heal your wounds and help you to recover from your grief.

1.   Write for fifteen minutes every day. Discipline yourself to write even on those days you don't feel like writing.

2.   Write longhand with a pen or pencil. Do not use a computer.

3.   Begin either with the phrase, "I remember," or "I feel."

4.   Write about the good times you had together with your pet. Write about the bad times. Write about the death.

5.   Write without stopping for the full fifteen minutes. Keep your hand moving at all times.

6.   Whenever you run out of things to say, begin again with the phrase, "I remember," and keep writing.

7.   Write without thinking. Give free rein to your emotions and feelings.

8.   Feel free to say whatever you want. Don't worry about what others will think.

9.   Be as specific as possible in your writing. Put in descriptive detail.

10.   Don't try to be creative or cute.

11.   Don't worry about spelling, or grammar or what your English teacher taught you. You are not writing for a grade.

12.   It is okay to cry while you are writing. Keep writing through the tears. Don't stop.

13.   Keep writing as long as you need. If you wish, you can expand your writing time to 30 minutes or an hour.

14.   Do not share your initial writing with others. They may not understand you expression of your pain or may be hurt by the things you say.

Writing and Sharing Your Story

Once you have begun to heal your grief through Grief Support Writing, you may want to turn your experience into a story that will help others heal their pain and give them the needed support.

Using the techniques of Grief Support Writing, write out a response to each of the following questions. Be sure to be specific and concrete with the details of your story. Put in details that will help others to picture the story.

After you have written a response to each question, edit your material into a chronological story. Put the story away for three or four days, then rewrite the story as many times as needed to make it read well. Reading the story aloud will help you determine if it sounds good.

Once you are satisfied that you have written it to the best of your ability, submit it for publication or publish it yourself and give to family and friends.

Questions To You Help Write Your Story

1.   Identify your pet's name, type of animal, breed, male or female.

2.   Describe the how you acquired your pet. Was your pet a gift? Adopted? Purchased? Found? What were your thoughts and feelings? Why did you pick his/her name?

3.   Describe 4 - 6 special moments that you and your pet experienced together?

4.   Describe the kind of relationship you and your pet had. Was he/she a friend, a soul mate, a member of the family or just a pet?

5.   Identify the lessons your pet taught you about life.

6.   Describe how your pet died. When did your pet die? Month/Year? How old was your pet when he or she died?

7.   If you had your pet euthanized, describe the experience. How did you make the decision? Did you stay with him/her when he was put to sleep? How do you feel about euthanasia? Did you feel guilty?

8.   Describe your emotions or feelings when you lost your pet. Did you find yourself in shock and unable to believe that your pet was gone? Did you ever feel like withdrawing and hiding from everybody? Did you experience any anger at yourself? Your pet? Your family and friends? How did you express this anger? Did you try to strike a bargain with God or others to allow your pet to live? Did you feel guilty? Has the sadness ever been overwhelming or paralyzing? Have you ever felt that you have accepted the death of your pet?

9.   Describe funeral or burial arrangements. Any prayers? Any rituals? Ceremonies? Burial or Cremation? Why?

10.   Describe what you did with your pet's special toys, dishes and leashes. Did you keep them? Give them away? Bury them with your pet? What have you done with the photographs of your pet?

11.   If you had other animals around your house when your pet died, describe how they reacted? Did they seem to notice that the pet was gone? What expressions of grief did they display?

12.   Describe how you coped with your grief and pain? What helped you to work through the pain and grief? What type of support did you receive from your family and friends? Did you join a support group? Did you grieve by yourself? Did you share your grief with others? Did you seek grief counseling? What has helped you overcome the pain?

13.   Describe other experiences that you have had with pet loss. How have you coped with the losses? What have you learned from the different losses? What do you remember about the first pet loss that you experienced?

14.   If you ever experienced the death of a relative or close friend, describe the loss. What is the differences between the experience of grieving for a human being and grieving for a pet? What are the similarities?

15.   Identify what you learned from the experience of pet loss. Did you learn something about yourself? Did you discover that you were stronger than you thought? Did you discover that you were not as strong as you thought?

16.   What advice would you give to someone who was grieving for his or her pet?

(For pet loss stories by other people, read the book, It's Okay To Cry, by Maria Quintana, Shari Veleba, and Harley King. Available through Amazon.com or by calling 1-800-247-6553.)