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Whether you work at an animal rescue organization or a veterinary practice, an animal sanctuary or a mobile practice, exposure to euthanasia is probably part of your work. Euthanizing animals for health, behavior or space brings unique challenges that sometimes go undetected and unaddressed and can ultimately take a toll on the emotional, spiritual and psychological health of animal welfare workers. Not all euthanasia’s are at home, surrounded by family in a non-urgent, non-clinical environment for an elderly animal who has reached their final days. Some are brutal on your heart and psyche and take time to come back from. Some you don’t agree with. How do you keep coming back when all you want to do is stay under the covers, cuddle with your pets and serial watch Netflix?


Striking a work-life balance is paramount in continuing to do what moves your soul and inspires you. Get enough rest, sleep, good nutrition, social time with friends and family, exercise, nature and time away. Sounds simple enough, right? Self-care is different for everybody so ultimately you have to find your own way, your own rituals and your own tribe where you can be yourself. Knowing you and being you and surrounding yourself with people who accept you is tip-top self-care.


Helping an animal exit this world is no small thing and over time your beliefs will change and grow and change again. It is ok to say, “No, I don’t believe that anymore, I believe this now.” Life causes us to be fluid and expand with experience and accepting that you will outgrow personal preferences is the softer, easier path. Staying open to conversation, different points of view and experiences can make the world of difference.


Ritual can be anything from lighting a candle and saying a prayer to creating a healing circle with music and spoken word to commemorate and bless the animals we said goodbye to that day or month or year. Ritual gives us space to express our emotions and thank them for guiding us in our personal journey. Ritual blesses what has come and gone. Create your own or have your organization create a monthly space for that to happen.


Remember life is a practice. You can’t get it wrong. You are doing incredible work and finding peace with things on a day to day basis is work. Life is happening for you, always, even when it seems difficult or not what you might have chosen. You are an evolving being and choosing this work has put you on the fast track to personal growth and expansion.


Please, above all else, reach out to someone you trust or a professional in the field of mental health for folks in your field and have that conversation you are afraid of having. Let the emotions come up for expression and know that you will find a way to the future version of you who is so proud of who you are becoming. We are not required to go through difficult times alone. Most organizations have support already in place. Use it.