Skip to main content


Close-up of white wiry dog placing paw in young woman's hand

Practical Ways to Support a Grieving Pet

By Grief/Loss, Pets

While pets may not fully grasp the significance of death, they can deeply feel the loss of a human or animal companion. The depth of feeling will vary from pet to pet, but it’s not unusual for a pet to feel out of sorts for several months following the death of a loved one. But there are ways you can support your pet through a loss and help them recover more quickly.

Person sitting on floor, hugging a dog and cat close

Signs of Grief in a Pet

Before we discuss how you can support your pet through the loss of a companion, it’s important to know how to identify grief in an animal. Here are several physical and behavioral changes that may indicate your pet is grieving:

  • Changes in appetite (eating less)
  • Acting withdrawn or sad
  • Whining, howling, yowling, or crying
  • Changes in personality (your standoffish cat becomes a cuddler)
  • Pacing or searching the house for the missing family member
  • Hiding from or avoiding other family members
  • Changes in grooming or bathroom habits (especially in cats)
  • Showing signs of separation anxiety
  • Changes in sleeping patterns (sleeping more or less than usual)

Man in dark-colored sweater hugs gray cat

In a research project called the Companion Animal Mourning Project, the ASPCA found that over 60% of pets experience four or more behavioral changes after losing a family member. So, if you think your pet may be grieving, it’s very likely they are.

But once you know your pet is grieving, how can you support them? Let’s talk about 8 things you can do!

8 Ways You Can Support a Grieving Pet

Every pet will react to a death differently, so some of these suggestions may work better for your pet than others. Try each suggestion and see which ones work best for your pet and their personality. These methods could help your pet cope with the loss of either an animal companion or a human companion.

1. Let them say goodbye

While animals have a limited understanding, they do comprehend that death occurs. Consider giving your pet a chance to say goodbye by providing an opportunity for them to smell or even nudge the deceased human or animal companion. Just as it can be valuable for humans to see a loved one before burial or cremation, the same practice can be beneficial for pets. However, if this suggestion makes you uncomfortable, feel free to skip it. Instead, you can focus on other methods for supporting your pet through loss.

Two cats and a black dog all eating with faces in food bowl

2. Provide for their physical needs

During times of grief, both people and animals may struggle to look after their physical needs. For pets, this means making sure that they eat, sleep, play, stay clean and brushed, and aren’t acting emotionally depressed. To help, you can take your pet for walks. Play with them to increase their activity levels. Make sure they are washed and clean. Monitor their sleeping and eating habits. If you see a concerning change in any of these areas, contact your veterinarian for help.

3. Keep a few reminders around the house

For animals, scent is a very powerful sense. To help them grieve, consider leaving out a few blankets, pillows, pet beds, an old shirt, or other items that carry the scent of the companion who has died. When your pet feels sad, they can take comfort in the smell and familiar presence of the companion they miss so much. It may also bring comfort to your grieving heart when you see your pet resting on a special pillow or snuggling into a blanket.

Close-up of white wiry dog placing paw in young woman's hand

4. Spend quality time with your pet

When your pet is feeling down, they may seek you out for attention. Spend positive quality time with your pet and give them the attention they need. Go to the park with your dog. Brush your cat. Give a few extra treats here and there. These extra moments together will help your pet feel secure and strengthen their bond with you. However, try not to reinforce bad behavior. For example, if your cat begins to meow obnoxiously, don’t give them treats. That will only encourage them to meow more often. Instead, ignore the bad behavior and reinforce the good.

5. Stick to a consistent routine

Pets thrive on routine, and the loss of a companion can really disrupt their daily life. If you have lost a person in your family, and they typically took your dog for a walk every night, try to step into that role and begin taking the dog for a walk each night. Keep up with meals, play time, exercise, and even bedtimes. Grief has a way of throwing everything in chaos, but re-establishing routine brings a sense of safety and security to everyone involved.

Older man in red flannel playing with white dog outside

6. Add new activities to your pet’s life

While you definitely want to establish routine, you can sprinkle in new activities to your pet’s everyday life. Sometimes, fresh and exciting activities can provide a happy distraction and cheer your pet up. Consider introducing a new toy. Walk a new trail at the park. Give your cat different boxes to try to sit in. Add a new perch by the window. These different forms of stimulation can help your pet move past their feelings of grief and find happiness in new things.

7. Give your pet time to grieve

With the loss of a family member, everyone needs time to adjust to the new normal in your home. However, when a pet companion dies, you may be tempted to fill the void by bringing a new pet home quickly. Try not to be hasty. If your pet is grieving deeply, they may not be ready to accept a “stranger” into their home, and it could cause more disruption to your pet’s routine. Give it time. One day soon, your pet will be ready to welcome a new furry member to the family.

Woman at home working on computer with cat sitting in her lap

8. Consult your vet if your pet doesn’t improve

While grief will look different from pet to pet, pay close attention to how they are doing. If your pet isn’t eating well, they aren’t taking care of themselves (like your cat isn’t grooming), or they seem depressed, contact your veterinarian for help. Your vet can offer additional guidance as you support your pet through grief. Because your pet can’t communicate what they are feeling, it’s up to you to pay attention to their unconscious cues and get them the care they need.

With time and love, most pets heal from loss within a few weeks or months. May these 8 methods of support help you look after your pet and help them through this time of loss.

Man placing a white rose on top of a gravestone

How Rituals and Traditions Help Us Heal

By AfterCare, Grief/Loss, Meaningful Funerals No Comments

Sometimes, it’s hard to know what to think or how to process a loss that hurts so deeply it takes your breath away. That’s where traditions and rituals can help. Healing actions help us to express our deepest thoughts about life’s most significant events. Special ceremonies like graduations, weddings, and baby dedications involve rituals that help us mark important milestones in life. Similarly, when a loved one dies, traditions can also help us mark a significant event, spend time remembering a loved one, and find healing.

Man placing a white rose on top of a gravestone

What Makes Rituals So Effective?

1. Rituals are symbolic

When you lose a loved one, you can use symbolic acts to honor and remember their life and memory. This could mean that you watch their favorite movie every year or that you place their stocking on the mantel during the holidays. These small, symbolic acts help you to remember that a loved one is always with you in your heart.

2. Rituals help us express emotion

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, renowned grief counselor and educator, is often quoted as saying, “When words are inadequate, have a ritual.” During times of grief, you will need an outlet for expressing your deepest emotions, and words may not be enough. After all, when a loss occurs, the wound may be so deep that you simply cannot find the right words to express it. In times of great distress, a ritual can be more comforting and healing than a thousand eloquent words.

Servicemembers symbolically folding an American flag at a funeral

3. Rituals unite people in a common, shared experience

Funerals, visitations, candlelight services, memorial events, and celebration of life ceremonies can help you feel a certain solidarity with others who are sharing your grief and loss. There’s a unique sense of comfort from knowing that you’re not alone and that others are supporting you on the journey through grief.

So, why are rituals and traditions so effective? They can bring healing to the wounded heart and help you feel connected to others and supported by the presence of loved ones. Rituals are also a way to express deep emotions as you search for healing and reconciliation after a loss.

What are Some Examples of Healing Rituals?

Grief and healing are not one-size-fits-all. There’s no set timeframe for grief, and there’s no “right” way to heal. Instead, you must find what works best for you, your personality, and your family.

To spark your own ideas, here are some possible rituals you could include in your grief journey:

Woman lighting memorial candles in her home

Light a Memorial Candle

Put an open place setting at the table or set up a memorial display area at home and light a candle when you want to honor the memory of a loved one. You can light a candle every day or only on special occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. Lighting a candle symbolizes the light that your loved one brought to you and how they live on in your heart.

Recall Memories

Family and friends may choose to gather on special occasions to share memories and honor a loved one’s life. This may occur on the first anniversary of the death, at family reunions, or on significant days like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. During these gatherings, set time aside to allow people to talk together and share memories that bring comfort and joy.

Man and woman visiting the grave of a loved one

Visit the Graveside

Some people find comfort in visiting the grave of their loved one, leaving fresh flowers, or simply spending time reflecting on the loss. Mourners often visit the grave on special days or on any day that they want to feel close to their loved one. No matter when you decide to visit, take this time to speak to your loved one and express what’s in your heart.

Attend a Special Memorial Event

Certain community events, such as remembrance services around the holidays, can also bring comfort and healing. These events help us connect with other people who are also feeling the pain of a loss, which can bring a greater sense of peace. In addition to receiving support, these types of gatherings help you engage with your emotions and express what you’re feeling.

Keepsake necklace with a loved one's fingerprint and the word "Dad" engraved on it

Carry a Remembrance Item

Sometimes a small keepsake, like a watch, jewelry, or a small heirloom, can be a sweet reminder of a loved one. If you don’t have a specific keepsake, you could select memorial jewelry that holds a lock of hair or is engraved with a loved one’s fingerprint. A remembrance item serves as a daily reminder that can bring comfort when you feel a loved one’s loss most keenly.

Now, these are just some ideas to get you started. There are so many rituals and traditions you could incorporate into your grief journey. Volunteer every year at a non-profit your loved one championed. Bake their favorite dessert on their birthday. There are so many possibilities. Spend some time thinking about what would be meaningful to you. Talk with your family members. Together, you will identify ways you can use ritual and tradition to bring healing to your hurting heart.

bouquet of white flowers and pink and red roses

Funeral Etiquette: “In Lieu of Flowers” and Donations

By Educational, Grief/Loss, Helping a Friend in Grief

Have you come across an obituary that asks for donations in lieu of flowers? The phrase “in lieu of flowers” has been used in funeral service for years. But what does this phrase actually mean in an obituary or death announcement?

When friends or family request donations in lieu of flowers, it’s important to respect their wishes. Here’s what you need to know about the phrase “in lieu of flowers” and the etiquette surrounding this special request.

What Does “In Lieu of Flowers” Mean?

bouquet of white flowers and pink and red roses

While giving flowers to the family of someone who has recently died is a tradition that goes back many years, sometimes families don’t wish to receive flowers. Maybe they already have enough flowers for the service, or perhaps someone is allergic to flowers.

No matter the reason, when a family doesn’t want flowers, they often ask for donations or cards instead of flowers. In an obituary, the phrase “in lieu of flowers” is typically used in this situation, and often the family requests donations to a specific charity in the deceased’s name.

How Do I Make a Donation In Lieu of Flowers?

glass jar full of change marked "charity" sitting on a wooden table next to two paper hearts

There are several ways to donate in honor of the deceased. If the family included a link to a specific charity or page in the obituary, you can click on that to make your donation. If they mention a charity without linking to it, you can go to the charity’s website and donate there. Be sure to include a note with your donation that mentions the deceased, like “In memory of ____.”

In most cases, you’ll donate directly to a charity. Don’t send cash or money to the family unless requested. In some cases, the family may request donations to support a particular family member, like the spouse or children of the deceased. When you donate to a charity or the family, consider giving what you would typically spend on flowers for the family.

If There Isn’t a Charity Listed, How Do I Pick One? 

Two hands holding a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon

Sometimes, a family will ask you to donate to your favorite charity instead of mentioning a specific charity. In this case, you can contribute to your preferred charity, making sure to specify that you’re giving a memorial donation in memory of the deceased.

If you’re unsure what charity to donate to, pick a charity that may be meaningful to the family. For example, you could donate to a charity looking for a cure to a disease the deceased fought, like breast cancer or Alzheimer’s. If the deceased was passionate about animals, you could donate in their name to the World Wildlife Fund. No matter what you choose, remember to notify the family of your donation.

How Do I Let the Family Know I Made a Donation? 

woman wearing a gray shirt writing in a card

If the family provided a link to a place to donate in the obituary or has a specific page to donate in the deceased’s name, the charity may notify them that you donated. If you’re unsure if the family has been notified of your donation, you can mention it in a sympathy card or condolence letter. Make sure to mention the gift in a sensitive manner and keep the focus on the family and the deceased.

Can I Provide a Donation and Flowers? 

parent and child hands holding a heart

It’s always best to follow the family’s wishes, but if you wish to send flowers in addition to a donation, you can always contact the family and ask if they’re okay with receiving flowers. If they’re fine with that, you can send flowers with a note that mentions your donation.

Alternatively, consider giving the family a different kind of sympathy gift. There are plenty of options for gifts you can give to the family, and there are even sympathy gifts you can mail if you cannot visit the family and give them something in person.

Regardless of how you express your sympathy, remember that your main goal is to support and encourage the family. By respecting their wishes, you show that you care about what they’re going through, and the family will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

woman crying with her hands clasped by her face

8 Ways to Express Your Grief

By Grief/Loss

After losing a loved one, it’s natural to want to avoid things that trigger your grief, like your loved one’s clothes, their favorite song, or a place that was special to the two of you. However, studies have shown that avoiding your grief can keep you from healing and lead to more serious issues, like complicated grief.

While allowing yourself time to heal is certainly important, it’s also necessary to let yourself feel those more negative emotions so you can continue on your grief journey. Instead of bottling up your feelings, find healthy ways to let yourself feel your grief.

While everyone expresses their grief differently, here are 8 ideas to get you started.

1. Write

woman in a green skirt with brown shoes writing in a notebook while sitting outside on grass

Writing, whether through journaling, blogging, or writing poetry, can be a great way to express your grief. Many people struggle to understand their emotions until they begin to write. A grief journal can be a great way to understand your grief better and see your progress along your grief journey. You could also write a letter to your loved one to say things you wish you could have told them.

However you choose to write, don’t focus too much on grammar or finding the perfect words. You don’t have to show anyone what you write, so immerse yourself the process and focus on being honest with yourself.

2. Talk

Two women having a conversation while drinking coffee at home

For many people, talking about emotions can be intimidating. Sometimes, it can be hard to put emotions into words, or you may be afraid that someone will judge you. That’s okay! You can start small. Try talking out loud about your grief when you’re on your own or visit your loved one’s grave and talk to them. If you have a friend or family member you trust who is willing to listen and support you, you can meet up with them for coffee or lunch to talk together.

If you don’t have a friend or family member you feel comfortable opening up to, you can also visit a grief therapist or join a grief support group. Getting help from a professional can be an excellent way to better understand and express your grief.

3. Cry

woman crying with her hands clasped by her face

After losing a loved one, many people feel pressured to stay strong. Maybe you feel like you need to support other family members who are grieving or act like nothing’s wrong at work, school, or social events. But crying isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, crying can help balance your emotions and improve your mental well-being. Allowing yourself to cry can help you acknowledge your grief and begin to heal.

If you feel unable to cry, that’s okay, too! It may take time before you can express your grief in this way. You could also try watching a sad movie or listening to a song with lyrics that make you think of your loved one. But don’t pressure yourself too much.

4. Music

man listening to music with his eyes closed

Many people use music as a creative outlet, and it can also be a great tool for expressing your grief. Whether you write songs, play an instrument, or simply enjoy listening to music, you can find meaningful ways to express your emotions. You could compose a song about your loved one or play one of their favorite tunes on the piano. You can put together a playlist with their favorite artist or genre. If you enjoy dancing, you could create a dance to one of your loved one’s favorite songs. Music can help you express what words can’t, so however you choose to enjoy music, let the lyrics and rhythm move you.

5. Art & Creativity

older woman in a plaid shirt painting a canvas on a tabletop easel

Just as music can say what words can’t, art can help us express ourselves in unique ways. Art and creativity create opportunities for expression you may not find anywhere else. Maybe you have always loved painting or woodwork, or perhaps you want to try something new, like knitting or scrapbooking. You could choose to create something in honor of your loved one or use the creative process itself to help you release your emotions. Even something as simple as coloring can make room for your grief and help you feel your emotions while your hands are busy. Whether you keep your art private or share it with others, the act of creation can help you process, understand, and express your grief.

6. Exercise

older man hitting a punching bag at a gym as a workout

Grief can take its toll on your physical and mental health. While the last thing you may feel like doing is getting up and moving, exercise can help you in your grief journey – and help you express your grief. Whether you try yoga or stretching, participate in sports, or work on a more intense exercise regimen, incorporating movement into your day can help you relax, which may provide you with the release you need to let out your tears, frustration, or anger.

7. Get Outside

man wearing a white shirt breathing in deeply outside

When you’re grieving, sometimes you need a break from the pressures of everyday life. Spending time in nature is a great way to do that. Getting outside in the sun, seeing wildlife and plants, and breathing fresh air can give you the space to let yourself feel your grief. You could do something simple, like take a short walk, spend time in the garden, sit outside, or read a book on your patio. Or you could go for a hike or camping trip to immerse yourself in the outdoors. Whatever way you choose, take time to enjoy nature and allow yourself to let your guard down.

8. Participate in Remembrance Activities

person cupping their hands around a burning candle

Was there anything your loved one enjoyed doing? A hobby, a sport, or volunteer work? One way to express your grief is to do something that helps you feel close to your loved one. If your loved one enjoyed scrapbooking, you could make a page with photos of them. If they liked to play soccer, you can get friends to play a game at the local park.

Or you could do a more solemn activity in their memory, like lighting a candle or visiting their grave. By taking time to remember your loved one, you can express your grief and honor their amazing life.

As you continue along your grief journey, be patient with yourself. Everyone grieves differently, and what works for one person may not work for another. While expressing your grief and letting yourself feel it is important, give yourself time. You may not feel ready yet, but eventually, you’ll better understand your grief and grow more comfortable expressing it.

Open hardback book with blue cover

Comforting Poems After the Loss of a Father

By Grief/Loss

Good dads are strong pillars, men we can count on, lean on, and depend on throughout our lives. For those lucky enough to have an outstanding dad, his loss can stir up many emotions, including sadness, shock, confusion, or even regret. These emotions are all normal and natural after the death of a loved one.

If you are grieving the loss of a father, take comfort in these 10 poems that beautifully express the special relationship between a father and his children. And as you read them, take note of your own feelings. Write down your thoughts. Pay attention to the ones that bring tears to your eyes. And above all, remember your dad and honor his place in your life and his part in shaping who you are today.

Woman in rust-colored sweater sitting on couch, reading a book

1. Special Hero (by Christina M. Kerschen)

When I was a baby,
you would hold me in your arms.
I felt the love and tenderness,
keeping me safe from harm.
I would look up into your eyes,
and all the love I would see.
How did I get so lucky?
You were the dad chosen for me.

2. Dad (by Susan Smith)

To me, Dad, you’re everything
I cannot begin to say,
You’ve loved, cared, and looked out for me
You’ve made me who I am today.
Dad, you’ve always been understanding
and showered me with concern,
You’re my knight in shining armor
You’re my dad and best friend.

Mature man with glasses and beard sitting in a hammock outside and reading a book of poems

3. God Made a Father (by Abigail Stott)

God once made a father
his best one of all
he was smart loving and determined
to come when his kids called

This father could be serious
he would sometimes get mad
but he was forgiving
when you did something bad

This father could be silly
he would tell many jokes
he could be quite annoying
when he gave tickles and pokes

God gave him to someone
but who could it be?
This very lucky person
turned out to be me.

4. Only a Dad (by Edgar Guest)

Only a dad, with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame,
To show how well he has played the game,
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come, and to hear his voice.

Only a dad, with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more.
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent, whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad, but he gives his all
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing, with courage stern and grim,
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen,
Only a dad, but the best of men.

Open hardback book with blue cover

5. Dads Show Us the Way (by Harrison Beslow)

Dads are the guiding lights that lead the way,
Raising kids to be strong, brave, and never stray,
Teaching us to try hard, and put ourselves to the test,
To see the funny side of things, and do our best.

Dads inspire us to be optimistic and kind,
To find our mission in life, and always keep in mind,
That success comes to those who never give up,
Who work hard and never hold a grudge.

With patience and love, dads show us the way,
To live in the here and now, and seize each day,
To face life’s challenges with grace and ease,
And to never ever give up on our dreams.

Dads teach us values that shape our lives,
To be kind to others, and treat them with respect and thrive,
Their love and guidance, we’ll cherish forevermore,
For dads play a crucial role in the world, that we can’t ignore.

6. My Dad, My Teacher (by Reese Carlington)

From the very start, my dad’s been there,
Teaching me to ride my bike without a care.
When my toys broke, he fixed them with a grin,
And when I needed help, he always pitched in.

Through every scrape and tear, he wiped away my fears,
Making everything okay, and drying up my tears.
He’s been my rock, my guide, my hero, all in one,
And I’m grateful for everything he’s done.

He’s taught me to be kind, and to spread my wings,
And he’s always been there to help with anything.
With his patience and love, he’s helped me through it all,
And I’m grateful for his support, big and small.

I’m lucky to have such an awesome dad,
And I’m grateful for all the fun we’ve had.
He’s the best friend I could ever wish for,
And I’ll always love him more and more.

Young woman sitting beside window as she reads a book of poems

7. As We Look Back (by Clare Jones)

As we look back over time
We find ourselves wondering
Did we remember to thank you enough
For all you have done for us?
For all the times you were by our sides
To help and support us
To celebrate our successes
To understand our problems
And accept our defeats?
Or for teaching us by your example,
The value of hard work, good judgement,
Courage and integrity?
We wonder if we ever thanked you
For the sacrifices you made.
To let us have the very best?
And for the simple things
Like laughter, smiles and times we shared?
If we have forgotten to show our
Gratitude enough for all the things you did,
We’re thanking you now.
And we are hoping you knew all along,
How much you meant to us.

8. Silent Strong Dad (by Karen K. Boyer)

He never looks for praises
He’s never one to boast
He just goes on quietly working
For those he loves the most

His dreams are seldom spoken
His wants are very few
And most of the time his worries
Will go unspoken too

He’s there…A firm foundation
Through all our storms of life
A sturdy hand to hold to
In times of stress and strife

A true friend we can turn to
When times are good or bad
One of our greatest blessings,
The man that we call Dad

Man sitting at an outdoor table by himself, reading a book of poems

9. Dear Dad (by Anonymous)

You mean so very much to me,
And I want you to know
That you are always in my heart,
No matter where I go.

You’re always giving, always there
To help in any way;
The loving things you’ve done for me,
I never could repay.

I can’t imagine what I’d do
Without the love you give.
I’ll treasure your sweet heart of gold
As long as I shall live.

10. Where Would I Be Without You (by Corey Mitcherson)

My dad, my hero, always by my side,
From the moment I was born, he has been my guide.
He cared for me as a baby, taught me to crawl and walk,
And as I grew older, he taught me to talk.
He taught me to throw and catch, ride a bike and drive a car,
And to never give up, no matter how hard things are.
Without my dad, where would I be?
Lost and unsure, I don’t want to even think.

He has always been there, through thick and thin,
Supporting me, and helping me to win.
His guidance and faith in me, have given me the strength,
To overcome all obstacles, no matter the length.
He taught me about The Lord, and how to live a life of grace,
To be kind and compassionate, and to always have faith.
My dad, my hero, I’m grateful for all you’ve done,
And I thank the heavens above, for giving me the best one.

Two hardback books sitting on a table next to a white coffee mug

May these poems bring you comfort and help you remember your dad with love and tenderness. As you continue on your grief journey, make sure you talk with family and friends about what you’re feeling. Find ways to express yourself. Share your favorite memories. As you engage with your emotions and process your feelings of grief, you will move toward healing and reconciliation.

For more grief tips, check out these articles:

6 Ways to Combat Loneliness on Valentine’s Day

By Grief/Loss, Seasonal

If you’ve recently lost a spouse, partner, or significant other, you may be experiencing loneliness on Valentine’s Day. And that’s completely normal and to be expected. Your natural inclination may be to sit at home and just try to deal with your loneliness. However, to make the day easier on yourself mentally and emotionally, here are a few activities to consider that may help you make it through the day feeling more engaged and less lonely.

1. Schedule a Self-Care Day

Woman receiving manicure on a self-care day

Give yourself a little love this year by scheduling self-care activities on Valentine’s Day. By doing so, you not only get out of the house, but you also have a chance to treat yourself to things that bring you joy. For example, you could schedule a massage (foot, back, full body, whatever you prefer). Or you could get a manicure, pedicure, or facial.

Alternatively, you could choose to focus on your spirit and attend a retreat or educational conference. Simply choose something that relaxes you and makes you feel recharged. And if you’d like to invite a friend to join you, do so!

2. Make Plans with Friends

Three men out golfing together

A second option for combatting loneliness on Valentine’s Day is to make plans to spend the day or evening with friends. By including other people in your day, Valentine’s Day won’t feel as lonely because you won’t be alone. Instead, you will laugh, talk, and deepen your connection to the important people in your life.

You could go out to dinner at your favorite spot. Plan a road trip. Go to the movies and see the most action-packed movie possible (no rom-coms allowed). Scope out a good place to hike and enjoy the outdoors. Head to the golf course, the local fishing hole, or the new axe-throwing joint. Or you can poll the group and ask each person to choose an activity and make a full day of it!

3. Volunteer with your Favorite Charity

Two volunteers holding a pug at an animal shelter

Studies show that volunteering decreases loneliness and social isolation while also improving your physical well-being. So, take time out this Valentine’s Day to volunteer at a charity close to your heart. And if you’ve never volunteered before, that’s fine. With a little advance planning, you can get signed up with a local organization that’s in need of your help.

You could volunteer at an animal shelter, tutor kids, help with the homeless, build homes with Habitat for Humanity, sit with the elderly, or deliver meals with Meals on Wheels. There are so many volunteer opportunities to choose from and each one will introduce you to new faces and new passions.

4. Exchange Valentines with Friends

Person holding a box of Valentine's Day truffle chocolates

Do you remember exchanging valentines in elementary school? You can do the same with your friend group this Valentine’s Day. Think of it like a Secret Santa gift exchange. You could draw names and each person gets one gift. Alternatively, you could draw inspiration from grade school and each design your own valentine box and place it on your porch. Then, throughout the day, your friend group can drop cards and treats into the box at each other’s homes.

If you’d prefer to exchange in person, you can always have a valentine brunch or dinner where valentines are given and received. You could create your own cards or grab one of those packs from the store. The point is, by exchanging with your friends, you still get the love, support, and chocolate that comes with the day and you will feel less lonely.

5. Sign Up for a Group Activity

Group of seniors in a painting class with instructor

If you’re new to the area or just like to try new things, you could sign up for a group activity on Valentine’s Day. You could do a fitness class, a painting class, an educational course, a walking group, a dance class, a wine club – wherever your interests lie. With group activities, you have the chance to meet new people while also learning a new skill or indulging a passion. What a lovely evening it would be! You just might meet your new best friend.

6. Stay Off Social Media for the Day

Cell phone put away in a basket as woman takes a social media break; woman sitting on couch reading

With social media, we’re connected to more people than ever before. While that can be good on some days, on others it becomes a curse. If you are struggling with loneliness this Valentine’s Day or are simply missing your special person, it can be painful to see so many others celebrating their own love stories. While you are certainly happy for them, it doesn’t mean you want to be confronted with your own loneliness so openly.

If you struggle seeing others’ social posts, consider staying off social media for 3-4 days surrounding the holiday. This way, you won’t be bombarded with posts and can protect your own mental and emotional health. Even after 4 days, you may see a post or two pop up in your newsfeed, but you will avoid the thick of it.

Woman sitting at home, writing in a journal, expressing her thoughts

Remember to Honor Your Feelings

While these 6 activities will help you combat loneliness on Valentine’s Day, it’s important not to ignore what you’re feeling. There are going to be times throughout the day when you feel down or deeply miss your special person. When these feelings come, don’t be discouraged. This is completely normal and natural.

Take a moment to honor your feelings. If you need to cry, scream, or journal what you’re feeling, do that. It may also help to find a way to honor your loved one’s memory on Valentine’s Day. By doing so, you honor the love you two shared in a special way. For a few ideas on ways you could honor your loved one’s memory, go to Honor Your Loved One this Valentine’s Day. May you find hope and connection this Valentine’s Day even as you mourn the loss of someone dearly loved.

stew with potatoes in a red pot

Cooking for One: Resources and Tips for the Grieving

By Grief/Loss

When you lose your spouse or partner, everyday tasks like cooking can feel impossible. Maybe your loved one handled all of the cooking and you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you love cooking, but every time you step into the kitchen, you remember that your loved one won’t be there to enjoy your food.

You’re not alone! Those who are grieving often find cooking difficult. Cooking can take a lot of energy, and as you adjust to life without your loved one, it’s normal to struggle to find the motivation to cook, especially if you’re experiencing a change in appetite.

But there are steps you can take to help yourself cook. From preparing meals ahead of time to taking cooking classes, here are some of our top tips for getting back in the kitchen when you’re grieving.

Take a Cooking Class

cooking class with people stirring food in skillets

Whether you have decades of cooking experience or are just now learning how to cook, taking a cooking class can be a huge help! If you’ve never had the role of cook in your household, a cooking class can help you expand your cooking skills and grow your confidence in the kitchen. If you already know how to cook but are struggling with motivation, a cooking class can help you rediscover your love of cooking and meet new people.

You may be able to find cooking classes at a local restaurant, support group, or even at your library! If you can’t find an in-person class, you can try an online cooking class through a website like America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School or explore cooking class videos on YouTube.

Cook Smaller Portion Sizes

small meal with chicken, pineapple, and greens

If you’re used to cooking for two, you may find yourself with too much extra food on your hands. While leftovers can be convenient, you may not want to eat the same food for a whole week.

Adjusting the measurements in recipes can be a great help. If you need to cut a recipe in half, Google can help you with weird measurements, like half of 1/3 cup. You can also check out resources that specifically create recipes for one. One Dish Kitchen is a great resource, and AllRecipes also has some great options for meals for one.

Make One-Pot Meals

stew with potatoes in a red pot

When you’re grieving, the idea of having to juggle multiple parts of a meal can be intimidating. You may not feel like making a main dish and sides. Plus, the more parts your meal has, the bigger the cleanup.

Instead of avoiding cooking because you feel like you have to make a lot of different things at once, explore one-pot meals! Casseroles, stews, skillets, and sheet pan meals that use only one pot or pan can make cooking and cleanup much easier. There are recipes for virtually every type of cuisine, and you never know when you’ll find a new favorite. Both Food Network and Taste of Home have long lists of one-pot meals you can try.

Try a Meal Box

Meal box with ingredients and woman holding the recipe on her phone

Sometimes going to the grocery store after losing your partner can be difficult, especially if they were the one who typically handled the groceries. One solution is to invest in a meal box subscription like HelloFresh or Home Chef.

Meal box services like these send you the exact amount of ingredients that you need for each recipe, so you don’t have to worry about food waste or cooking too much food. Most have the option to choose how many servings you want to receive, which means you can make enough for just yourself or order extra to have leftovers.

Freeze Extra Portions

beef and broccoli meal in a plastic container

Sometimes you want easy meal prep, but you don’t want to eat a lot of leftovers. One way around this issue is to freeze extra portions of the meals you make. After cooking a meal, you can freeze leftovers by the portion to make reheating at a later date easier.

There are also plenty of recipes that you can make and freeze ahead of time, then cook when you’re ready! Taste of Home has some great freezer recipes, and Good Housekeeping has options for fridge or freezer make-ahead meals. If you’re interested in creating single-serving meals ahead of time, consider investing in containers that fit exactly one portion.

Share Food With Others

Group of people sharing food at a table

For many people who have lost a partner, sitting down to eat by themselves reminds them of their partner’s absence. If you’re struggling to eat because of loneliness, try eating meals with friends or family members. While you may not feel like cooking for a group of people, you can invite everyone to bring a dish, potluck-style.

Additionally, you can have a meal exchange with friends or family. Each person can make extra portions of the meal they’re cooking and swap them for a homecooked meal from someone else. This can be a great way to get more variety in your diet without making a lot of meals yourself.

Fill the Space at the Table

Table with decorations and candles on it

While inviting family and friends to eat with you can be an easy way to fill the space left behind by your loved one, there will likely still be times when no one is available. Instead of avoiding the kitchen when you’re alone, try to fill the empty space at your table.

You can physically fill the space by adding a centerpiece or decorations to the table. Or you can listen to music or watch TV while you eat so you don’t have to eat in silence. While these won’t eliminate the empty space at your table, they can help you cope with your loved one’s absence.

Consult Your Doctor or a Grief Therapist

african american man in a brown shirt being comforted by a nurse in a blue shirt

If you find that you’re still struggling with motivation after a long period of time, especially due to depression, it may be a good idea to consult a grief therapist. And if you have a continuous lack of appetite, please consult your doctor. Taking care of your physical health is important when you’re grieving, and your doctor can help you find ways to improve your health.

As you begin to get back into the kitchen after losing your partner, be patient with yourself. It may take time for you to create a new routine and adjust to your new normal. Give yourself grace, and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

Two women and one man standing at a graveside service, one woman holding a white handkerchief

Why Your Presence at the Funeral Matters

By Grief/Loss, Meaningful Funerals

In our culture today, there’s a tendency to do whatever is necessary to avoid pain and unpleasant feelings. This is one reason why people want to avoid the funeral – it brings out emotions that don’t always feel good. But pain and difficult emotions are a natural part of the human experience. In order to have good mental health and positive well-being, we need to learn how to process difficult experiences.

Man and woman standing together next to a closed casket, woman's hand placed on casket as they pay their respects

Nationally recognized grief counselor and death educator Dr. Alan Wolfelt puts it this way:

The pain of grief will keep trying to get your attention until you unleash your courage to gently, and in small doses, open to its presence. The alternative—denying or suppressing your pain—is in fact more painful. If you do not honor your grief by acknowledging it, it will accumulate and fester. So, you must ask yourself, “How will I host this loss? What do I intend to do with this pain? Will I befriend it, or will I make it my enemy?” (To see Dr. Wolfelt’s full article, click here.)

Woman in black dress holding white lilies with left hand as she places right hand on casket

But why does your presence at the funeral matter? How will attending a funeral help you address any pain or complex emotions you may feel at a time of grief and loss? How will your presence provide support and encouragement to others? Good questions. Let’s discuss 7 ways attending the funeral or memorial service will help you (or your loved ones) on the grief journey.

Attending the funeral service gives you the opportunity to:

1. Honor and remember a person’s life

By attending the funeral or memorial service, you have a chance to acknowledge that a special person existed and their life was important. As human beings, we need to know that our lives matter, and the funeral provides an opportunity to affirm that. Even if you didn’t know the person well, you honor them and their surviving family members by paying your respects and participating in remembrance activities.

Woman in black dress placing purple flowers on a grave at the committal service

2. Say goodbye in your own way

While the funeral doesn’t make grief go away, it does help you grieve. Without a service, things don’t feel finished. Almost like something is missing. However, with a service, you have the chance to say goodbye in your own way and accept the reality of the death. Some may want to sit near the deceased for a while; for others, the act of attending the funeral is enough. We’re all different, but it’s important to say goodbye, especially for those who didn’t get to see the deceased before their passing.

3. Express your emotions

People expect to see emotions at a funeral service, which makes it a safe place to express yourself. You may be tempted to bottle up your emotions, but if possible, try to engage with your feelings. Let yourself experience what you feel and take note of your emotions. Someone you love has died, and that’s significant. Your emotions are normal, and it’s okay to express them.

Young woman who is sad

4. Offer condolences

Another reason why your presence matters is that it gives you a chance to offer your condolences. Whether you want to give the grieving family a hug or share an encouraging word, your presence can bring great comfort. Plus, by offering your condolences at the funeral, you make things simpler for the family. It’s easier to talk to 100 people at the funeral than to experience 100 different condolence encounters after the funeral.

5. Support the grieving family

Similar to giving your condolences, you can also offer practical support to the grieving family. This could mean that you drop off food for the family in the days following the service. You could sign up to be on “clean-up duty” at the gathering, give family members a ride, or help them pack up memorial items used to personalize the service. While the funeral home staff will take care of the major details, there are other ways you can step in to offer practical support to a grieving family.

Two women and one man standing at a graveside service, one woman holding a white handkerchief

 6. Reconnect with others

After a loss, you need good people surrounding you. Funerals bring family and friends together, so they provide an opportunity for people to reconnect. Though the funeral will bring tears, it will also bring laughter, joy, and connection. Families and friends who haven’t seen each other in a while can swap stories, share memories, and support each other. We’re not meant to live life alone, and we can lean on each other during times of grief and loss.

7. Realize you aren’t alone in your grief

Grief can feel lonely, but by attending the funeral, you see other people who are also grieving. You aren’t alone in what you’re feeling. The people around you at the funeral may not experience exactly what you are feeling, but they are processing emotions of their own. You can sit down together, talk with each other, unpack what you’re feeling, and provide much-needed love and support. You don’t have to grieve on your own – there are people who can stand with you.

Two white roses sitting on casket with clergy person in background holding an open book

Are there times when you shouldn’t attend the funeral?

In most cases, your presence will be welcome at the funeral or memorial service. But life isn’t always black and white; sometimes, it’s gray. Here are a few times when you should consider skipping the service or participating online:

  • Your attendance at the service would be disruptive, distracting, or upsetting to any member of the immediate family
  • The services are private and not open to the public
  • The services are out of town and you cannot get there
  • You cannot arrange for time off work
  • You are ill or physically unable to travel

White chrysanthemum resting in an open book

Additional grief resources

While attending the funeral is an important and necessary part of the grief journey, it’s not the end. For some, the deep emotions of grief last for a few weeks, and for others, they last for years. To help you (or a grieving loved one) in the days ahead, here are some additional grief resources.

Person standing in front of a heart drawn into the snow during the holiday season

Healing Your Holiday Grief

By Christmas, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

By Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt

If you could go back in time and relive a special holiday, which one would you choose? Close your eyes for a moment and think about this holiday. Now, slowly, walk through this memory in your mind.

What made it so special? What were the surroundings like? Who inhabits this memory with you?

Family of three - dad, mom, and pre-teen daughter - putting up Christmas tree together at holiday

Holidays have such rich associations for us because humankind created them as a way to honor and celebrate that which is truly important. We step out of the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day routines and into a world where our spiritual beliefs and connection to others matter above all else. We pause to give thanks, and we share of ourselves.

As the Grinch learned that memorable Christmas, the holidays don’t really come from a store – they come from the heart and soul.

Which is why when someone loved dies, the holidays can be so painful. The heart of the holidays has been torn apart. Without love, what is life? Without the people we love, what are the holidays?

I want you to know that you can find continued meaning in the holidays and in life. You can continue to live and love fully. You must grieve, but you can also celebrate.

Person standing in front of a heart drawn into the snow during the holiday season

Setting Your Intention to Heal

It takes a true commitment to heal in your grief. Yes, you are changed, but with commitment and intention, you can and will become whole again. Commitment goes hand in hand with the concept of “setting your intention.” Intention is defined as being conscious of what you want to experience. A close cousin to “affirmation,” it is using the power of positive thought to produce a desired result.

How can you use this in your journey through holiday grief? By setting your intention to heal.

Turning to Ritual

Setting your intention to mourn and heal during the holidays – and beyond – is one important way to move forward in your grief journey. Harnessing the power of ritual is another. We create holiday rituals because everyday activities and normal conversations cannot capture our most profound thoughts and feelings. Rituals give them voice and shape. So, we decorate our Christmas trees, light our menorahs, give gifts, hold hands, and say prayers.

During your times of grief, the very rituals of the holidays can help you survive them. Try participating in some of your normal holiday traditions but with a focus on grief. When you light candles in your home, do it in honor or the person who died. You might also create a special holiday ceremony or private ritual in memory of the person who died. The holidays are ritualistic, and ritual can help you survive (and heal) right now. Remember this when you are considering whether or not to participate in your next holiday tradition.

Grandmother in her kitchen, baking Christmas cookies with grandchildren during the holiday

Living in the Now

Return once more to the holiday memory I asked you to conjure up at the beginning. This memory is so special to you because you were so very present in the moment. When your grief overwhelms you this holiday season, try focusing on the now. Your grief wants you to live in the past through memories of the precious person who died. Remembering is indeed important, and your memories will always be a special part of your life.

Your grief will also project you into the future at times. You will worry about what the coming months and year hold for you. Looking ahead is also a normal and natural part of grief.

But when remembering and projecting exhaust you – and they will – return yourself to the present moment. Concentrate on what is going on around you right now. Hear the sounds and see the sights. Try drawing on the power of now to find continued meaning in your holidays and in your life.

Mother and young daughter sitting in front of Christmas tree as they watch something funny on a smartphone

You’ll notice I have used the generic term “holiday season.” By that, I mean the winter holidays bookended in the United States by Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. In between are the spiritual/religious holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. But whatever holidays you celebrate, and no matter where you live, the principles apply to the holidays that are most meaningful for you – including other holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries sprinkled throughout the calendar year.

A List of Ideas to Heal Your Holiday Grief

Be Compassionate with Yourself

Let your holiday grief be what it is. And let yourself – your new, grieving self – be who you are.


If the death was very recent, you may be in survival mode this holiday season. If that’s true for you, it’s OK – the world will keep turning whether you participate in the holidays or not.

Keep What Matters

You might consider simplifying your holiday rituals instead of abandoning them altogether. Keep the traditions that matter most to you and set the others aside, at least for now.

Group of three sitting quietly at home, sitting next to a warm fire and wearing cozy socks

Communicate Your Wishes

Muster the strength and courage to tell the people in your life what your wishes are for the holidays. If you’d like their company but prefer to gather somewhere different than you usually do, say so. If you’d rather skip some of the celebrations this year, tell them. If you’re feeling unsure about how to spend the holidays, tell them.

Attend a Remembrance Ceremony

Many hospitals, hospices, and funeral homes host remembrance ceremonies during the holidays. The act of joining together in our grief and ritualizing our mourning can be healing. Especially early in their grief, many families say that it was the most important thing they did during the holidays.

Hang a Special Stocking

If your holiday traditions include hanging stockings, consider hanging a special stocking in memory of the person who died.

Young girl with brown hair hanging up a Christmas stocking on the mantle

Be a Secret Santa

You could probably use some “feeling good” this holiday season. Give yourself a dose of pleasure by giving to someone else.

Prepare Favorite Holiday Foods of the Person Who Died

Special foods are an important part of the holiday traditions. Chances are, your family prepares many of the same dishes each holiday, and everyone looks forward to those unique smells and flavors.

If You’re Alone, Find Ways to Connect

If you’re alone this holiday season, you would be well-served to make an effort to connect with other human beings. Invite your neighbor to dinner. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or nursing home. Join a group at a place of worship.

Mature couple sitting near Christmas tree as they talk with family through video chat

Make an Appointment with a Grief Counselor

Seeing a counselor or spiritual advisor for just a session or two over the holidays may help you cope better and focus more on what is important to you this year and what is not.

Count Your Blessings

Think of all you have to be thankful for. This is not to deny the hurt, for the hurt needs to take precedence right now. But it may help to consider the things that make your life worth living, too.

Believe in a Better Next Year

Believe in your capacity to heal and grow through grief. Believe in the enduring holiday spirit of giving and love.

About the Author

Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., is the founder and director of Center for Loss and Life Transition and a member of the TAPS Advisory Board. This article is excerpted from his book, Healing your Holiday Grief: 100 Practical Ideas for Blending Mourning and Celebration During the Holiday Season, published by Companion Press and available at

Printed with permission from Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, Center for Loss and Life Transition.

Pet portrait of a husky dog

11 Pet Memorial Keepsakes to Consider

By Grief/Loss, Pets

Pets are a welcome addition to our lives. They bring comfort, hope, laughter, joy, and companionship. Unfortunately, you will outlive many pets during your lifetime, but that doesn’t mean you can’t honor each pet’s life and cherish their memory for the rest of yours. If you’d like to create a memorial keepsake that both brings you comfort and helps you remember your pet in a meaningful way, consider these 11 pet keepsake options. Perhaps one will feel like the perfect way to remember your pet for years to come.

1. Painted Pet Portrait

Pet portrait of a husky dog

Whether you choose to paint the portrait yourself or commission it with a friend or artist, a painted pet portrait can be a beautiful and whimsical way to remember your pet’s life. You can request certain colors and provide a sample photograph. With so many styles available, you can choose an artist that meets your tastes, who will paint a portrait that will be a lovely addition to your home.

2. Photographs

Woman relaxing on window seat as she looks at framed photograph of her pet

Photographs are a simple yet versatile way to remember a pet’s life. You may choose to place a favorite photo in a frame and find a home for it in a special location. Or you can order a single canvas print or a collection of canvas prints. You could do a tiled collage of photos for the wall or find a frame that will allow you to create a collage on your own. There are so many options to consider with photographs, and you can make it as simple or as detailed as you’d like.

3. Memorial Photo Book or Scrapbook

Scrapbook materials for a pet scrapbook

While related to photographs, the photo book or scrapbook is much more involved. The act of selecting photos and designing each page can be cathartic and help you both honor your pet’s memory and process your feelings of grief. And while it will take time, the finished product is something you can go back to again and again. Or show friends and family when you share stories about your beloved pet’s antics.

4. Memory Box or Shadow Box

Crate of a pet's belongings like toys

With a memory or shadow box, you can collect items your pet cherished and keep them close to you. Perhaps include a photo, a favorite toy, leash, collar, tags, or whatever else is special to you. With a memory box, you might keep it on a bookcase where you can easily pull it out. And with a shadow box, you can hang it on a wall or set it in a place of honor.

5. Headstone or Garden Stone

Pet headstone with light purple flowers nearby

If you want a more natural option, a small headstone or garden stone might be a good way to honor your pet’s life. If your pet is buried in your backyard or in a local pet cemetery, you could include a small headstone with the pet’s name and an engraving, like a paw print. On the other hand, a garden stone may be better, with a sweet sentiment like, “Best friends live furever in the memories we hold dear.” If you wish, you could combine the two ideas by including your pet’s name and a short sentiment.

6. Personalized Calendar or Stationery

Calendar with white cat in the monthly photograph

For the letter writer, ordering special stationery with your pet’s image may be sweet and meaningful. Every time you choose to communicate with a friend or loved one, you have the chance to see your pet’s face and reflect on how amazing they were. Alternatively, you could create a personalized calendar (or any other paper products you regularly use) with favorite photos of your pet.

7. Customized Fabric Items

Embroidered pillow with orange bird on it

As with photographs, the possibilities with this category are pretty broad. After choosing a favorite photo, you can order a t-shirt, socks, hat, towels, or any number of fabric items with your pet’s image on them. Or, instead, you could choose to order a custom pillowcase, throw blanket, comforter, or even curtains. With so many businesses out there specializing in these kinds of custom requests, you are sure to find something that will meet your wishes.

8. Stuffed Animal Replicas

Gray crochet cat

Another option to consider is a stuffed animal that resembles your pet. The replica could be displayed or given to a child as a reminder of your beloved pet. There are many companies out there that specialize in this kind of work, including Cuddle Clones and Petsies. If you’d prefer a crochet or knit option, websites like Etsy will likely have options from artists around the world to choose from.

9. Paw Print Memorials

Focus on the front paws of two dogs

For pets with paws, a paw print memorial is worth considering. Either before or after death, you can take an imprint of your pet’s paw. Often, the vet or the funeral home can take this imprint for you (if your local funeral home offers pet loss services). Once you have the paw print, you can do many things with it. There are artisans out there who can use ink, clay, glass, and even stone to create a special memorial that implements your beloved pet’s paw print.

10. Christmas Ornaments

Hedgehog ornament on a Christmas tree

For those who love Christmas and decorating the tree, you could purchase an ornament that represents your pet. For example, if you’d like to remember your pet hedgehog, you can find ornaments in that shape. If you’d prefer, you can purchase a photo frame ornament and place your pet’s photo in it. There are also options to engrave your pet’s name on the ornament. Regardless of which type you choose, you can honor and remember your pet’s unique place in your family each holiday season.

11. Glass Memorial Items

Glass blowing; man creating glass creation

If you have chosen to cremate your pet, there are many ways to create memorial items with the ashes. With glass memorial items, the ashes are mixed with the glass during the creation process. The ashes can be infused into glass earrings, rings, necklace pendants, figurines, or a host of other items. You won’t be able to tell looking at the items that they include cremated remains, but they can serve as a beautiful reminder of your pet and the life you shared.

While this list certainly gives you many good ideas, it’s not exhaustive. If none of these feels quite right, please brainstorm your own ideas. Think about your pet’s personality, their favorite things, or memories you particularly cherish. This information can help you come up with meaningful ideas that will help you honor your pet for their unique contribution to your life.

Skip to content