Grieving the Loss of a Pet
Over 80% of American pet owners consider their pets to be members of the family, and well over half spend more time taking their pets to the vet than going to the doctor for themselves. They are also more likely to know the names of their neighbors’ pets than the names of their neighbors. Source: Sky Magazine.
Given the rich and intense relationships most pet owners share with their animal companions, the loss of a pet can be very painful. The loss of a beloved pet can trigger overwhelming feelings of grief and sadness. Physically, you might have trouble sleeping, lose weight, feel tired all the time or have difficulty focusing. Your feelings might surprise you, but shouldn’t if you consider all of the things your animal companion brought to your life, chief among them love and affection.
Grieving might take you to your spiritual and emotional edges, so it’s often tempting to try to avoid it. Yet the more you are willing to embrace your emotions, the better equipped you are to live and love fully.
It may come as a surprise that you feel so deeply about your pet. You may have been aware, but not mindful, of the many wonderful gifts your pet brought to your life. For many, the loss of a pet is the loss of a trusted companion. As you experience sadness and grief about the death of your pet, take time to consider your pet’s special place in your life. The questions below can help you understand why you are so sad and, hopefully, give you positive ways to remember your pet.
- How did my pet come into my life?
- What types of activities did we do together?
- What important life moments did my pet see me through? (births, deaths, marriage, divorce, etc.)
- How did being with my pet make me feel?
How is the loss of a pet similar to and different from the loss of a human friend or family member?
One important difference between pet loss and human loss is that pet loss is often not appreciated. Friends and family may ask “What’s the big deal? It’s just a pet!” There is also the assumption by many that pet loss shouldn’t hurt as much as human loss, because humans are supposedly more important than pets.
For someone who has truly loved a pet, however, the loss of that animal can feel just as devastating as a human loss, if not more. The very things that make animals different than humans often make them more endearing. An animal who doesn’t talk can’t pass judgment or give you the silent treatment or withhold companionship and love. For many, pets provide a source of unwavering love, affection and companionship. The qualities of a beloved pet are hard to match in human form. The loss of that companion can be heartbreaking.
The truth is that all losses, animal or human, can plunge you into despair and may signal the beginning of a profound spiritual-emotional journey. Like grief for humans, grief for animal companions can only be dealt with over time and in stages.
Reprinted with the permission of Helpguide. © 2001-2008. All rights reserved.
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