“What advice would you give to someone who is pretty sure that their theriotype is extinct? How would you advise them to come to terms with potentially never discovering the ‘name’ and type of their animal?”
My first suggestion to someone who suspects their theriotype is extinct is to keep researching and looking for matches among extant species. I say this because I do believe many people don’t cast their net wide enough in their search and tend to focus on more well known species. Fossa could easily be mistaken for a feline, Grackle mistaken for Crow. Also, even if you know in your deepest heart that your type is extinct, this reasearch will be valuable for the next steps.
The next step would be to start comparing and contrasting your inner beastie with extant critters. Nature loves variations of themes. What animals feel similar to or remind you of what you feel inside? Try to figure out why. Is it something in their physiology, behavior, habitat, and so on? Once you think you have a good feel on that similarity, what is different about your theriotype and this animal? For instance, I found my theriotype species partly because I felt a noticible differance between my therioside and Grey Wolf (the closest match I could make), yet recognized some of its traits reflected in Spotted Hyena. The problem for me was that even after realizing the fact I still was convinced I was more canid than hyenid. About a year later, I stumbled on a website that explained that the niches occupied by dire wolves and spotted hyenas are probably very similar, it clicked together…hard.
Try to keep in mind that this sort of searching is primarily an intuitive process. Sometimes connections aren’t obvious at first, so don’t dismiss a recognition simply because the animal that triggered it seems to be very different from your theriotype. I see traces of Eel in my housecat’s love of dark crevices, flexibility, and quick predatory strikes. As I said, Nature loves variations of themes. A therian who is quite sure they are not an eel or even a marine lifeform could possibly feel kinship with Eel due to a recognition of similar ambush tactics and love of dark hidey-holes. It is for these reasons that I feel extant creatures hold the keys to finding extinct inner-creatures. Studying them helps you start to learn what is and is not possible, what forms and behaviors keep showing up over and over again, and it helps you find the creatures that may hold clues to help make educated guesses about what sort of life your theriotype may have lived.
There is a second path to discovering clues if you feel like you have memories or a sense of the lands and times your theriotype lived in. Of the few other “extinct” therians I’ve found, most do claim a sense of feeling out of place/time or feel like the Earth as it is now is not the Earth they came from. They, like myself, often feel this way long before coming to an understanding of the extinct status of their therioside. If this is the case for you, one way to try to find the era you are from is to see if you can figure out if any extant creatures, plants, or landscapes seem very familiar to you or very alien to you. If a group of animals like birds is absent from your “memories” or if you picture many varieties of fern but never any trees, this may help you start narrowing down the time your theriotype roamed the earth. This method can be a bit tricky if it ends up that your theriotype had a small range or lived an area kept isolated from migrations of newer species. For this reason and many others, I am convinced that research into evolutionary biology, ecology, paleontology, ethology, and similar fields is vital to any therian’s searchings for their therioside. The science helps you stay grounded and new knowledge always has the potential to open up new doors.
The second part of this question asked how to deal with the possibility of never finding a name for ones therioside. I’m afraid I don’t have much sage advice on this because I know I was terribly frustrated when I knew I was *something* but didn’t know exactly what, but later I *did* find it. I’m fairly sure I would still be flustered today if Dire Wolf hadn’t whacked me upside the head. I can only say honor yourself and your feelings and keep searching. Over 95% of all species that have ever lived on earth are extinct and humanity will likely uncover knowledge of only a fraction of those, so the possibility of a theriotype remaining unknown not just to the therian but to all people is certainly there. You may get only as close to your theriotype as “ancient whale”, “desert-dwelling dinosaur”, or “raccoon-like mammal”. That is still something, and that something is you.
And oh, if you do undergo a quest to find an extinct therioside, please do write about your findings. This sort of “spiritual paleontology” does exist among therians and totemists but little is said or written on it and speaking as a dire wolf, that is a shame.