Ordinary People Helping Ordinary People in Extraordinary circumstances!

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Pet Loss and Grief !

We are a nation of pet lovers with around 50% of the population owning an animal. According to the latest PDSA’s PAW report around 24% own a cat and 26% a dog – here’s a link to their latest survey if you want to check it out in more detail https://www.pdsa.org.uk/get-involved/our-campaigns/pdsa-animal-wellbeing-report.

These stats in isolation do not reflect the myriad of reasons that families decide to choose a pet for themselves. And it is with these thoughts in mind that I wanted to highlight the many positive mental and emotional effects that pets can have on our wellbeing and also to highlight an often ignored issue – grief over the loss of a pet.

It truly is a joy to own a pet and make them part of our family, with the resulting fun, giggles, antics and learning about another little personality we have just adopted into our homes. (Can you tell I have been a pet owner for many years ??) Apparently, even stroking an animal can have a multitude of health benefits too. Most of us will be able to share precious stories of our beloved pets as we grew up.

Our daughters Jack Russell – Mr Darcy – (Photo – Steve Wright)

However, when you have never owned a pet it can seem incredulous to you to see grown adults crying, sobbing and feeling deep pain for days, weeks and even years. Yet most of us will readily admit we have either seen this or experienced it in our lifetime. My husband and I had a very close friend of over 40 years, a grown man in his sixties, dissolve into grief and depression over the loss of his beloved cat. We too had experienced loss ourselves over our family pets over the years, and so it was not too difficult to understand his feelings. Pets become our family!! Yes, we know, they are not of the human species, but if we invest a huge amount of love, compassion, friendship into our pets, we can become similarly overwhelmed with our feelings at the loss of our pet.

When the worst happens, what are some of the things we can do to alleviate the distress? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Do not let anyone else tell you how to feel or even yourself. Remember grief is normal and only you know how it has affected you.
  2. Feeling sad, shocked or really lonely is a normal part of that grieving process. Do not be embarrassed to let others see or know how you are feeling.
  3. The grieving process does not have a timetable – so do not try to force or rush things. Accept the feelings of grief for what they are, and take your time to allow those feelings to unfold gradually.
  4. Reach out to others who have lost pets, as they will often be the first ones to identify with your feelings – this can make you feel less alone.
  5. Some people may want to create a legacy – a scrapbook, planting a tree, or anything you feel would help you to celebrate the life of your pet.
  6. Make sure to look after yourself as this can be an emotionally draining time and can often trigger off other feelings which can make you feel overwhelmed. So talk to others, reach out for help if you need it. This grief is real and let no-one tell you otherwise!

During this year of 2020 and the Corona virus still ravaging the world, please be mindful of others who have lost their pets and do not dismiss their feelings – you may make a huge difference to someone else’s life just by being there for them, giving them a listening ear and being patient with them as they struggle to recover from their grief.

Just another day on Neighbourhood Watch

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Tips to help avoid Overwhelm

More than any other year, 2020 has been a particularly difficult year for us all in terms of, not only our own families and the regular issues we may be facing, but on top of that we have a constant barrage of negative news stories. At times it may seem like we are overwhelmed and we might begin to wonder if we can possibly cope with all of this??

Without re-telling any negative stories, we need to find a way to manage and deal with this feeling of overwhelm, particularly in relation to keeping our own family afloat. Here’s one simple illustration which may help us to understand what is going on in our minds. Just think about your kettle coming to the boil. The steam builds up until it reaches boiling point, then it must be released in some way, otherwise it boils over. So either the switch is turned off automatically, or we switch it off, so that it doesn’t boil dry.

So working with this analogy – we have to recognise when we are getting to “boiling point” and find out if there are ways that we can flip the switch before the kettle boils dry. So what can we do?

Accept that we are feeling anxious

It seems like such a simple thing but learning to accept and admit that we are feeling anxious is a positive step in the first place. Most of us feel anxious or stressed, particularly in situations where we have no control or we cannot determine the outcome. No-one is superhuman !

Change your multi-tasking mind set

Have you ever felt you are doing too many things at once?? Most of us will know that feeling of panic as we try to complete everything we have to do by a specific date. However, its good to remember that not everything has to be done right here, right now. Accomplishing one or two tasks a day “WELL”, can make all the difference to that feeling of overwhelm.

Focus on the here and now

This may sound easier said than done – as we all have a tendency for our minds to race ahead of us into the future. But why does that old saying keep getting repeated over and over again, “one day at a time”? Humans have always had the tendency to let their minds plot and plan ahead – it seems ingrained. But often when we do that, we forget to focus on the here and now – and we miss lots of opportunities to stop and smell the roses – here – right now! And sometimes, the thing we were stressing over doesn’t always happen – or at least not in the way we expected.

Take some action that you would enjoy

Often, when we are feeling overwhelmed, we forget that life should have some joy in it. If your life has become so overwhelming, it’s time to do at least one thing for yourself today. Give yourself permission to have a long hot bath, read a book, listen to your favourite music or whatever you enjoy – that you’ve forgotten about recently. But pay attention to how it makes you feel afterwards, and tap into that sensation. Perhaps you might just repeat it again sometime soon – especially when you are feeling overwhelmed.

It sometimes can seem like an oversimplification to share tips like these – especially if your life has become completely overwhelming, but often it is the simple little things that we put into place ourselves that can give us a tiny little bit of control – and that in turn lessens the overwhelm. So try one thing today – and keep it simple. Flip the switch before the kettle boils dry.

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World Mental Health Day 10th October 2020

Perhaps you feel a bit like the image above, taken a few days ago at Elie, in Fife, Scotland on a ‘dreich’ Saturday afternoon. Things are a bit muted, a bit undefined and very fluid for many at the moment, especially due to Covid19. But for many this is also a daily reality whether we are in a pandemic or not, due to the many complex issues they have to face on a daily basis.

If we are honest, we might feel Awareness Days can be a bit annoying as there are so many of them!! However, we might alter our view if “OUR family” becomes involved in an issue which is covered by an awareness raising day. This is strangely reflected in the Bhudist saying of “When the student is ready the master appears”.

I have often pondered on this statement and wondered exactly what it meant – and my ponderings have brought me to the fact that we often do not pay attention to things – unless it happens to US or our family. So when it does – our ears prick up and we start to pay attention – we are the student who is now ready – and the master will appear. So now we are ready and we may start to pay attention to those pesky awareness raising days.

It’s quite frustrating that as humans we are so slow to learn – some more so than others it has to be said 🙂 But perhaps if we are aware of that – we can try to slow down and think about others and their situation a wee bit more than we do. And those awareness raising days might not seem so annoying after all. Keep in mind World Mental Health Day and why it is needed even more so in this day and age.

Find out more about it here: