Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Protecting Your Marriage

Protect Your Marriage From Infidelity
7 ways you can strengthen your relationship
by: Dr. Pepper Schwartz | from: AARP | August 10, 2011
We all know about the athletes, actors and politicians who cheat: The tabloids and celebrity magazines are filled with stories detailing their steamy exploits. So maybe you think that high-profile men are more likely than others to be unfaithful. While there may be a grain of truth to that, it hardly means the average guy isn't out there having affairs as well. And that goes for women, too!
While the majority of spouses remain faithful, a significant minority does not. Depending on which study you read, as many as 33 percent of men — and 20 percent of women — cheat on a spouse at some point in their relationship.
Don't forget about the power of touch to keep your marriage strong. —
You can deal with this information in two ways: You can decide that infidelity is inevitable and there's nothing you can do about it. But I'm a big proponent of the second approach, a prophylactic one — that is, taking measures to protect a partner (or for that matter, yourself) from straying. Here are seven tips that will make infidelity much less likely to happen.

Talk about what fidelity means to you. Make sure your partner knows that fidelity is extremely important for you and what it would do to you, and the marriage, if you had to cope with a betrayal. Your partner may not realize how important this is to you and what your reactions would be. You need to hear his feelings on the matter, too. It's much harder to cheat on someone if you have
talked about fidelity from time to time and made your feelings clear.
Keep your sex life active and exciting. If a spouse feels neglected, unwanted or just tolerated, those feelings of being undesired could generate a big push toward someone else's bed. Don't think that you can allow your sex life to deteriorate without any consequences. If you think "he's too old for that sort of thing" or "she is not the kind of person who would do such a thing" you may be sadly mistaken. Your partner may not intend to seek sexual healing in another person's arms, but if you starve a person long enough they will eat anything.
Make sure your relationship is intimate. Sometimes infidelity happens out of angry or vengeful feelings. Perhaps you have been going through a rough period for a long time and both of you feel lonely and isolated. It's not uncommon for a husband or wife to seek comfort and consolation from a friend. If that friend makes you feel more appreciated, well, one thing can lead to another. It's far better to create a situation where your partner can work things out — with you. If things are tense or unhappy for a while, face the issues and work them out together. If you can't do it alone, get a counselor to help restore your relationship.
Keep things romantic. Don't let your partner fantasize about a moonlit night on a tropical island with someone else because they are sure you'd never be willing to do such a thing. If you can't afford the stars on the beach, create a candlelight dinner at home, turn the lights down low and the music up high. Dress up occasionally and wear something flattering. Wear something you know your partner likes to see you in. Say "I love you", "I am so lucky I married you" and other mushy sentiments like that. They really never go out of style.
Spend time together. Sometimes long-term couples get very efficient about getting their day-to-day tasks done — and they barely see or talk to each other. If you are spending a lot of time having fun with your friends instead of your spouse, it can create big spaces that someone else could step into. Needing too much private time puts the whole idea of being a couple into question. I can't say arbitrarily what is "too little" time together, but if you start to feel unconnected from your spouse, change things, as quickly as possible.

Steer clear of temptation. There's no doubt about it: You're going to run into someone — a co-worker, a neighbor, a hairstylist, an old flame from high school — who you find unbelievably sexy and attractive. Fair enough. But if there's any risk of things getting too hot to handle, simply keep yourself out of the path of temptation. Avoid that person — and any situation that might put you in a compromising position. I advise accompanying your spouse to any kind of class reunion, which can be a major danger. I personally know of three people who left their spouse for a childhood sweetheart after reconnecting at high school reunions!

Pay attention to appearance. You don't have to be thin or look like a 30-year-old. But no matter how long you've been married, you need to watch your hygiene, avoid bad breath, comb your hair and brush your teeth and keep yourself looking as fit and healthy as possible. It even can be fun to dress up in fancy clothing every once in awhile — then to go out for a romantic evening. Attention to such matters keeps you attractive and alluring to your spouse — and helps keeps his or her eyes off someone else.

Monday, September 26, 2011

By the time a woman is 30...

30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She's 30
This 1997 Glamour article has become a popular web chain letter, usually titled “Maya Angelou’s Best Poem Ever.” Glamour contributor Pamela Redmond Satran is flattered, but she wrote the list, updating it in 2005.

In May of 1997, I wrote this list. I had passed my thirtieth birthday and wanted to tell younger women about the things I really wished I’d had and known by that important milestone. I guess people agreed with what I had to say, because a few years later the list showed up in my e-mail inbox; a friend had forwarded it to me for my reading pleasure, completely unaware that I was the author. After that, every month or two someone would send it to me and I’d immediately hit “reply all” and type, “Hey, that was me! I wrote that for Glamour.” (After a while, I don’t think anyone believed me.) The list became a phenomenon; posted on hundreds of websites, it was attributed to everyone from Jesse Jackson to Maya Angelou to Hillary Clinton. Someone even published it as an anonymously written book. As I read over these lines now, so many of them still seem worth having and knowing—whether you’re 30 or 22 or 75. Being a little older and a little wiser, I’ve plugged in a few new “shoulds.” By all means, add some of your own.
By 30, you should have:
1.One old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come.
2.      A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in your family.
3.      Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour.
4.      A purse, a suitcase and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying.
5.      A youth you’re content to move beyond.
6.      A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age.
7.      The realization that you are actually going to have an old age—and some money set aside to help fund it.
8.      An e-mail address, a voice mailbox and a bank account—all of which nobody has access to but you.
9.      A résumé that is not even the slightest bit padded.
10.   One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry.
11.    A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill and a black lace bra.
12.   Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it.
13.   The belief that you deserve it.
14.   A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don’t get better after 30.
15.   A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship and all those other facets of life that do get better.

By 30, you should know:
1.How to fall in love without losing yourself.
2.      How you feel about having kids.
3.      How to quit a job, break up with a man and confront a friend without ruining the friendship.
4.      When to try harder and when to walk away.
5.      How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next.
6.      The names of: the secretary of state, your great-grandmother and the best tailor in town.
7.      How to live alone, even if you don’t like to.
8.      How to take control of your own birthday.
9.      That you can’t change the length of your calves, the width of your hips or the nature of your parents.
10.   That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over.
11.    What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love.
12.   That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs or not flossing for very long.
13.   Who you can trust, who you can’t and why you shouldn’t take it personally.
14.   Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault.
15.   Why they say life begins at 30.

Overcoming Our Fears

The Secret to Facing This Scary World
Overcome Fears to Have It All
Lauren Zander

We human beings are an insecure lot. We wish that we were more confident… that we could tell people what we really think… that we could ask for what we really want… that we could get ourselves to do something important, however much it frightens us. Life coach and regular Daily Health News contributor Lauren Zander says people often ask her how to deal with their insecurity. They wonder how to overcome the fears they bump up against whenever they think about what they truly want from life. The answer, she says, is simple and involves just a single element. Once they get it, people can conquer their fears and experience unshakeable self-confidence. “This comes from one place only — having personal integrity, which is complete trust in yourself to do what you say you will do,” says Lauren. “It seems counterintuitive that a fear of things external could be solved by trust in yourself, but it really is true.”
Many people mistakenly believe that integrity is based on their behavior with others, that it means following through if they tell another person that they’re going to do something. But personal integrity is really about taking internal responsibility for all your decisions — not simply doing what your boss says… or taking a stand because you’re a board member… or staying on the straight and narrow path because you don’t want to get into trouble. These are obligations and forms of outer responsibility, says Lauren. When it comes to themselves, people will say they keep their promises but then will have a list of reasons why they can’t eat right, exercise, be patient with family members and so on. “Hanging on to beliefs about why you can’t keep promises to yourself enables you to think you have integrity,” says Lauren. “But,” she points out ” your soul always knows the truth.” The more often your soul watches as you fail to keep promises to yourself, the more insecure you will feel about your world in general.
“Every day that you fail to do what you should — just for yourself — eats away at your self-confidence and respect and erodes one of the most important elements in life, your personal integrity,” says Lauren. On the flip side, “People who learn to keep a promise to themselves — no matter what it is — have the power to change anything in their life, because they know they can trust themselves to do it,” she says.

The Road to Real Integrity
A first step is to consider the primary areas of your life (your health, your career, how you manage your finances, relationships with family, friends and your significant other) and evaluate whether your life is everything that you want it to be in each area. You may have an integrity issue in the parts of your life that don’t measure up. The danger here is in not being completely honest, brushing aside situations you consider tolerable rather than identifying them as broken. For instance, you might accept the body that is “okay” instead of trim and healthy… the relationship that’s fine but not great… the job you can barely endure but “need” to pay the bills but that dooms you to a life of mediocrity. Wouldn’t you rather have the confidence to bring about change? This is how greatness happens.
After you have evaluated five or so major areas of your life, pick one that is really troubling and address it. This will be the start of learning that you can make promises… keep promises… and make a difference in your life. You might decide to stop complaining about your inability to save money and start depositing a few dollars each week in a special account… or decide to eliminate sugar completely from your diet. Start with small steps that are concrete and achievable, as even small achievements can make a big difference.
Next, tell at least one person you are close to about what you are doing and for how long — this is “practice” for keeping a promise to yourself. “Assign a consequence,” urges Lauren. “Perhaps for every minute you’re late, you pay the person you leave waiting a dollar, or even a dime.” It’s not about making it painfully expensive, but rather to help you to stay focused on your commitment to your promise and to teach yourself to stop making excuses. The consequence makes you focus every time you keep or break the promise, so you quickly realize how your excuses have gotten in your way — telling yourself you need sleep more than exercise today, for instance, or blaming traffic for making you late again. Lauren gets tough with clients who complain that it’s impossible to keep a promise, taunting them that if they were paid $1 million to accomplish the task, they’d likely find a way.
“We all need to realize that we do have the power to keep our promises,” says Lauren. As you stay the course, day after day, your mental drama will begin to quiet down and good feelings about yourself will arise. “You will experience the pride of having personal integrity and realize what a great asset in life this is… there is no better feeling in the world than respecting yourself,” says Lauren.

The Next Step
Now that you know this about yourself, Lauren says it is time to decide how to use the knowledge. In what areas of your life are you being fearful? What have you not addressed that could, in fact, be improved or changed?
“If you don’t ever experience fear, you need to ask if you are really going after things that matter to you,” says Lauren. She advises that you take a deep look into your life to identify issues and challenges that you have never really conquered — for example, your ability to be truly intimate with others or to actively pursue advancement in your career instead of waiting for someone to promote you. Such areas are fabulous opportunities to see where your excuses have been holding you back. Make yourself a promise — or two — about new and different behaviors and then watch how it lifts your life to a higher and far more satisfying level.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Creation of Personal Boundaries

Why Personal Boundaries Matter

Learning to Create Boundaries for a More Productive Life

Lauren Zander, Chairman, Handel Group
The Handel Group is a global Executive Coaching and Life Coaching company creating personal and professional breakthroughs with clients all over the world.

We hear a lot of talk about the importance of personal boundaries, but somehow we forget to listen. For example, how about the mom who works long hours at the office all week and spends her evenings and weekends caring for her family, with nary a break for herself? And then there’s the dad who always says yes to requests from neighbors, relatives and friends — even when helping them intrudes on his own plans. Life coach and regular Daily Health News contributor Lauren Zander told me that the real reason boundary issues are rampant is because many people fear they’ll be perceived as selfish if they say no to a request. But, in fact, they simply don’t understand what boundaries are… and why they matter.
Lauren started by clarifying what it actually means to “have boundaries.” Boundaries, she says, show that you respect and honor your own needs. Inherent in that, of course, is that you know what your needs are and how  to communicate them honestly to the people around you. It doesn’t sound difficult, but life has a way of complicating the matter. “People are enamored with the idea of being loved and appreciated,” says Lauren. “When they get kudos for doing something, the praise and appreciation temporarily override the boundary that performing the action may have crossed.”  Take, for instance, a person who can’t say no when the boss makes a special request for a Saturday at exactly the same time as, say, a child’s piano recital. Yes, it is sad to miss the child’s event, but the request from your boss engenders seductive feelings of being important, irreplaceable and needed. You can guess whose need gets met. Another example: The husband who would never take time for himself to play tennis after work or on weekends thrives on the accolades he gets for being so committed — not to mention the bonus of soothing his guilt about how many hours he is away from home during the week. And it’s not just working parents who have boundary issues, but also caregivers with sick spouses or those of us with aging parents who are slavishly committed to meeting the needs of our loved ones, even at the cost of time for ourselves.  Truth be told we’re all better caregivers if we set some parameters for taking care of ourselves, too.
However, the issue of personal boundaries is not — or should not be — a judgmental one, says Lauren. At its base it has to do with choice. A martyr, for instance, is the classic example of a person who has no boundaries… always doing for others, never doing for self. But if the martyr genuinely likes leading a life of sacrifice, well then… perhaps that is the right choice for him/her. Boundaries don’t make you a better person, but there is a catch — they will likely help you feel happier, healthier and more fulfilled. “There is something that feels noble about being a martyr,” says Lauren, “but it certainly isn’t any fun. And being a martyr is self-limiting and frustrating — it leaves little room for you to truly experience who you are as a person.”


Personal boundaries always involve relationships and they usually have to do with time, says Lauren. Consequently, evolving personal boundaries requires investigating the dynamics of your close relationships. Do you ignore your own wants and desires to meet those of others? Or are your boundaries so powerful your needs always take center stage? (Interestingly, it is a common pattern in marriages for one partner to have few or no boundaries and the other to be demanding, expecting everything to go his/her way.) Many people, though, fall somewhere in between… having some boundaries, but perhaps not enough. Adding several more might well improve the quality of your life.
Perhaps you are thinking, this sounds good, but how do I discover what my unmet needs are? You’re used to living your life this way. You are not alone — fortunately there is an easy way to uncover those unmet desires. When you next become frustrated, annoyed or whiny, take a moment to pay attention to what exactly triggered those dark feelings — the odds are good it tapped your well of unmet needs, says Lauren. This need may not concern anything particularly big or important… it may be as simple as getting an hour for lunch out of the office… or an opportunity to go out with friends every few weeks… or to take a nap on a weekend. A boundary protects something that nurtures and replenishes you and adds to your feeling of having energy for life, rather than being burdened by it.


Once you identify your unmet needs — and determine that you would like to set boundaries to protect them — you will need to discuss this with those who will be affected by it. They need fair warning about changes you will be making. Often a boundary defines a need so small others are quite willing to go along — working parents, for example, often long to be left alone for 30 minutes after work to decompress, while caregivers may need an afternoon off per week to catch up on their own lives. Other boundaries might cause more of a stir. If you can’t bear being responsible for all the household laundry all the time, yes, there will be some moans and groans, but hang in… you have started down an important path to becoming a stronger self.
Boundary setting is an excellent exercise for marriages and other relationships that involve a great deal of interaction. Explain that you are doing an exercise in finding and meeting your personal needs… ask for feedback… and make it a joint project that will benefit you both. Being open about what you want and need will foster closeness, love and respect, says Lauren. Success will require negotiation as well as agreeing to respect and honor the other person’s boundaries, even those that have no meaning for you.
The ability to set boundaries is an important component in designing the kind of life you want. Defending your boundaries helps achieve that goal. It also brings clarity to your identity, your actions and your relationships. And all of this is why boundaries matter.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

How to Succeed in Life...

...from Peter Drucker--the Man Who Taught the World How to Succeed in Business
written by, Bruce Rosenstein, MSLS in a Special Report from Bottom Line/Personal
April 15, 2011

Peter Drucker is known as the "father of modern management." His business writings remain widely read and highly influential six years after his death at age 95. Yet even Drucker’s disciples might not realize that the famed guru was an expert in life management as well as business management. What can we learn about succeeding in life from the man who taught the world so much about succeeding in business? Bottom Line/Personal asked Bruce Rosenstein, author of Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life, to identify three of Drucker’s core life strategies...

Strategy 1: Live in more than one world
Most people assume that the best way to achieve success in any one area is to devote themselves completely to that area. Devote all of your energies to your career... your family... or your favorite cause... and the odds of a positive outcome in that area seem certain.
Drucker strongly cautioned against such single-minded focus. He recommended that everyone find at least one interest outside his/her primary area, then expand that secondary pursuit into more than just a hobby. Example: Drucker devoted considerable time to the study of Japanese art. He even taught college courses on the subject.
Drucker noted that people who have just one goal or one passion tend to wind up unhappy for several reasons...
If you have just one interest, your circle of friends and allies is likely to be very limited. That’s unfortunate, because having lots of friends is highly correlated with happiness... and having lots of allies means more open doors, increasing your odds of success.
Having only one goal leaves no fallback position should you be dealt a setback. Example: Devote yourself completely to a political cause, and you will feel crushed if the vote goes against you.
People with multiple interests tend to spend less time ruminating over mistakes and missed chances. Obsessing over failures only reduces the odds of future success.
A single-minded person tends to feel like a failure unless he/she is 100% successful in his focus area -- and total success is rare. Example: Anything short of reaching a desired spot in a company can feel like failure to someone who has devoted his life entirely to his career.
Outside interests provide unique viewpoints, which can increase the odds of success in one’s area of primary interest. Example: Drucker found that studying Japanese art gave him insight into Japanese culture, which helped him find perspective on -- and gain influence in -- the Japanese business community.

Strategy 2: Choose a nonfinancial primary goal
Peter Drucker observed that most of the people he knew whose life goal was to make lots of money did, in fact, make lots of money. But Drucker also saw that despite their wealth, most of these people were miserable.
Drucker was not opposed to wealth. He simply believed that there never is a true sense of satisfaction when wealth is the main motivator of achievement. Set out to earn $1 million, and you probably won’t feel successful when you do it -- you’ll decide you need even more money... or wonder why money doesn’t make you feel fulfilled.
Drucker thought a better goal was to leave something of value behind when you’re gone. You could leave behind...
A happy, loving family that will continue to be happy thanks to your positive example.
A history of treating everyone you meet with respect, encouraging them to treat others with respect, too.
A profitable company that will continue to provide employment and products or services after you retire.
If you’re not certain what you can leave, spend some time teaching, mentoring or volunteering with a charity. These are among the surest ways to feel you have created a worthwhile legacy.
Added benefits: Teachers and mentors tend to improve their own mastery of the material... while volunteers benefit from a halo effect -- others view them more positively because of their public service, increasing the volunteer’s odds of success in all aspects of life.

Strategy 3: Know and develop your core competencies
In 1990, a pair of management experts named C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel coined the phrase "core competencies." The crux of their idea was that a company should focus on the things that it does better than its competitors. This philosophy has been widely adopted in the business world.
What few realize is that Drucker advanced a similar idea more than a quarter century earlier, only he called it "strengths analysis." This strategy works just as well for individuals as for companies. Three ways to put strengths analysis to work in your life...
Abandon whatever isn’t working. Regularly question your habits, your hobbies, your relationships, your projects and your time commitments. For each, ask, Would I start this again today knowing what I know now? If the answer is no, end it or at least scale it back -- your time is better spent elsewhere.
Drucker disagreed with the saying "If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again." He advised, "If at first you don’t succeed, try once more, and then try something else." Example: Drucker published two novels. Neither succeeded, so he never wrote fiction again.
Engage in ongoing self-reflection. Consider what you expected to happen in the past year... what actually happened... and if those two answers differed, why they differed. This analysis could point you toward areas where your abilities are greater than you realize -- or away from areas where your abilities are less than you think.
Focus forward. People get too caught up in day-to-day tasks and activities. They don’t spend enough time focusing on future opportunities and how to make those opportunities happen.
Our future is more important than the distractions and errands that absorb much of our time in the present. Do not treat the future as a low priority just because it has not yet arrived.

Bottom Line/Personal interviewed Bruce Rosenstein, MSLS, a lecturer at The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, and former librarian, researcher and writer for USA Today. He interviewed Peter Drucker extensively for USA Today prior to Drucker’s death in 2005 and is author of Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life (Berrett-Koehler). www.BruceRosenstein.com


September 23rd, 2011 by Caroline Golon

We all believe our dogs are perfect just the way they are. But often, when it comes to behavior issues, we make the mistake of adapting to our dog’s behavior instead of the other way around. Over time, we don’t even realize our dogs could use some behavior modification.
Dog trainer Erik Reitmayr offers five ways to determine if your dog is ready for some training:

1. Trouble obeying commands. If your dog can’t obey simple commands like “sit,” “stay” or “no” then he can use some training. Even dogs who obey once in a while, but aren’t consistent, need someone to work with them.

2. Issues walking on a leash. Dogs who pull, and the owners who let them pull, need some training. Dogs should walk next to their owners, with a slack leash. A little training can go a long way in improving this behavior.

3. Unpredictable behavior in public. If you are afraid to bring your dog among strange people or dogs, that’s a key sign your dog needs some training.

4. Dominant behavior towards strangers and family entering the house. Barking and jumping when someone arrives in your home are signs your dog needs training.

5. You’re worried about bringing a new dog or baby into the home. If you have any misgivings about how your dog will behave with another dog in the home or a new baby, it’s time for some training. In fact, even if you’re not worried, in this type of situation, some training can help your dog transition to a new home dynamic.

Whether you’ve had your dog for years or just adopted him from a shelter, and whether he’s two months or 10 years old, virtually any dog will benefit from training.

Friday, September 23, 2011


I guess Fall has arrived?

How can I deal with the grief of losing my pet?

For some pet owners, the pain can be so intense that it lingers for years. If you are suffering with the loss of a pet, here are tools that may offer some relief.
By Morieka JohnsonWed, Aug 24 2011 at 9:38 AM EST

Q: For some reason, I just can’t get over the death of our family dog, even though it’s been a few months since he died. I feel silly for struggling with this for so long and my family is pushing me to get another dog. How do I find help dealing with this immense loss?

A: My sister’s dog served as our feisty family mascot for more than a decade. Her death from a seizure earlier this year felt as if someone ripped a branch from our family tree, and the loss still hurts. That’s why I was intrigued when Paws, Whiskers and Wags, the Georgia pet crematory that handled Daisy’s remains, introduced monthly group grief counseling sessions.  

Licensed clinical social worker Christy Simpson facilitates the group sessions with a dose of Southern charm and plenty of compassion as attendees share stories of love and loss. Eventually, most walk away realizing that they are not alone. Even Simpson has a tale of loss — coupled with the need for help coping with pet grief.

“I’ve spent 20 years in the mental health field and I saw a dearth of these services,” she says. “I’m also an animal lover and I had a euthanasia experience with a beloved cat. I wanted help, but could not find a counselor in Georgia that specialized in this.”

To expand the scope of her private practice and help other grieving pet owners, Simpson is studying to be certified as a pet loss counselor through the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement. Psychologist Dr. Wallace Sife, author of “The Loss of a Pet,” founded the organization and runs the certification program, which has helped Simpson and others understand how people grieve the loss of a pet.  

“For the most part, the stages are similar; you deal with shock and denial, anger and distancing, guilt, depression,” Simpson says. “But the final stage is not closure, it is resolution. You grieve and want to move forward in a way that memorializes them. You want to do better.”

She also notes that everyone handles the loss differently. For many, the grief can be more acute when a pet has been euthanized, and Simpson works to provide tools that help counter feelings of guilt. My friend William of Atlanta felt guilty at the very thought of having his dog euthanized, even as he watched Jerome (pictured above), his faithful companion of 12 years, endure a dramatic, two-year decline. Whenever he mentioned euthanasia, his partner argued against it.

“He had given me a lot of joy for many years, and I owed Jerome when he was not at his best,” William says. “I was paying him back for all the good years.”

Over time, William and his partner witnessed Jerome becoming more fragile, mentally and physically. A dog that never soiled his bedding suddenly had accidents on a daily basis, requiring frequent baths. At night, Jerome paced the hardwood floors nonstop. Outdoors, steps leading to the sidewalk in front of their home became impossible to navigate, so he had to be carried. But on nice days, Jerome seemed happy sunbathing on the porch. William and his partner found ways to cope with the new normal — until someone slipped a note under their front door.

“It said, ‘Put the dog out of his misery,’” William says. “I booked an appointment the next day. We thought we were sacrificing for Jerome for being so good to us, but we didn’t have the guts to do what he needed us to do.”

That anonymous letter served as a painful wake-up call, one William still has to this day. But he does not regret a moment spent with Jerome — even during those last difficult months. About a month after Jerome’s death, the family cat passed away at 14 years of age. Without a tinkling dog collar or a cat lounging on the sofa, their home suddenly felt quiet — and empty. After a short grace period, the couple adopted a dog, Jesse, and two cats.

Not everyone is ready to embrace another furry companion after the loss of a pet. For some, the pain can be so intense that it lingers for years. If you are suffering with the loss of a pet, here are some tools to find relief.

Find a support group
The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement offers a list of pet bereavement support groups in several states. Most humane societies also offer group sessions. Psychotherapist Marcia Breitenbach recommends this approach because it allows pet owners to see that they are not alone. If your community does not have a pet grief group, she suggests attending bereavement group sessions, which typically are offered at churches or hospitals. 

“It’s important to be around people who are dealing with the same thing in the sense that the feelings are identical,” Breitenbach says.

Give yourself permission to grieve
Even if others do not understand the loss, Breitenbach and Simpson say that it’s important to take time to grieve.

“One of the things that astounds me is when people say, ‘It’s just a cat, you can get another one.’ But they would never say at a funeral, to a widow, ‘there’s more fish in the sea,’” says Breitenbach, author of “The Winds of Change.”

“It’s hilarious to think about that, and yet we do say that to someone who lost a family member,” she adds. “They just happened to be furry or feathered or slithery or whatever.”

Ask loved ones for space to heal
Feelings of guilt and isolation can fester if loved ones are not supportive. Breitenbach notes that many mates are simply uncomfortable with their partner’s grief.

“They want it to go away and they want it like it used to be,” she says. “It’s not out of bad intention; it’s just that they don’t know how to be supportive.”

If friends or loved ones don’t understand your loss, Breitenbach suggests clearly communicating what you need to heal. “Most people in marriage or partnership want to respect the other person. “Be specific about things that make you feel heard and say, ‘I need you to refrain from …’”

Be honest with your employer
If the grieving process extends to the workplace, Breitenbach suggests open communication with supervisors. It helps to share an article about pet loss and be specific about what you need. It might be as simple as acknowledging that you may need a bathroom break to have a good cry, or it may be that you will have a funeral tomorrow and would like time off to do that.

“Let them know that you would prefer if they didn’t say anything when you come back,” she says.

Let go of the guilt
Whether your pet died as a result of an accident, a prolonged illness or natural causes, feelings of guilt are common in the grieving process. Breitenbach says most people develop a parental role with their pets and the loss resembles the loss of a small child. To move forward, she often suggests that patients write a letter to their pet, clearing out everything in their heart. Then, she asks them to write a letter from the pet.

“Even if it’s what you hope to hear from your pet, what comes out is right,” she says. “Usually it’s a lot of love and no judgment.”

Use the loss as a teaching opportunity for kids
Most children under the age of 5 do not have a real concept of death, so the loss can be a teaching opportunity. Breitenbach says, “If they ask frequently where the animal is, say they died, their body didn’t work anymore and they won’t be coming back.”

Simpson also recommends that children be part of the grieving process, as long as it is age appropriate based on their developmental level. That may mean allowing children to visit the cremation establishment, participating in the burial or selecting a memorial.

“So many of us want to shelter our children from suffering,” she says. “They know what’s going on. When you let them say goodbye to the remains, you normalize grief in general.”

Breitenbach adds that children grieve differently. They can be upset and then five minutes later they are out playing with their friends until later when they are looking for the animal to come sleep with them, she says. Follow their lead to determine the best approach.

Step out – even if it hurts
Breitenbach suggests enrolling in activities that you could not pursue when you had a pet. Try a new cooking class or continuing education course that takes you out of the house at least once a week.

“Widen that circle and know that it takes a while for the house to shift that energy,” she says. “Some rearrange furniture or change the interior or do something to change the interior. It’s soothing and may actually help to take away an automatic connection between the chair and your dog always sitting there.”

In time, consider another pet
Simpson says that you will know when it’s time to adopt another pet. To avoid feeling disloyal to your deceased pet, she suggests approaching the process slowly. Visit an animal shelter or a foster organization, but don’t commit. “It’s a subjective feeling,” she says. “Most of us know when it’s time to go back out there. You can’t push. “

Even with a 2-year-old running around, it’s a bit subdued at my sister’s house without our feisty Daisy. But she smiles down from a mural in my nephew’s room. During each visit, I share stories about Daisy so that he doesn’t forget our first fur kid. I know that eventually we will have to paint over the mural, and I don’t look forward to that day.

Until then, we point, we smile, and we remember.

Morieka Johnson

Got a question? Submit a question to Mother Nature and one of our many experts will track down the answer. Plus: Visit our advice archives to see if your question has already been tackled.

Photo: William's dog Jerome; MNN homepage photo: iStockphoto