Anyone who has lost a pet knows how heartbreaking it can be. Many unfortunately don’t give the loss that you are feeling the importance it deserves!!
A pet is often viewed as part of your family. Some view them as their “children”. They are in our lives constantly and give us unconditional love and comfort throughout their lives. Why on earth wouldn’t we be grieving the loss of such a significant part of our day-to-day life? We often would have more interaction with a pet than with other members of the family.
With all grief the level of mourning is directly related to our relationship with the loss. When we lose something of great importance to us it has a much greater impact. We often don’t expect how deeply we can be affected, in all aspects of our lives. This includes emotional, physical and cognitive aspects to name a few.
As a society we don’t handle grief well in general. We live in fear of not being able to say the right thing to someone who is grieving. Making someone cry is not ever our intent so avoidance seems like a perfect solution to avoid tears.
The loss of an animal that has become such a huge part of our daily lives is an enormous loss. The grief of this loss, as with all losses, lasts longer often than most people expect. This causes a problem for those who are grieving, as they feel shy about talking about their grief and often feel that because it is an animal they shouldn’t be feeling this way, or others won’t understand.
They would be right about others not understanding!! People tend to say the same things about the loss of an animal as they do for the death of a person. Does “They had a good life” or “It’s so good they didn’t suffer long” or “You are holding up so well” sound familiar? All of these statements may be true but it does not mean that the loss is any less significant. There is still the grief of the loss to cope with whether they had a good life or didn’t suffer.
So for those who have lost their wonderful pet, companion, friend who happens to have a fur coat instead of skin, remember that it is totally normal to have a significant reaction to losing them. Continue to talk about them, be good to yourself and don’t try to “keep it together” if you can’t. My hope is that your friends will be there to listen and understand your pain.
There is no doubt that as time passes, the ebbs and flows of the emotions that will often take you off guard will soften. But don’t let anyone tell you that it is any less of a loss as something else in your life equally important.
Any article or resource you can find on the subject of grief applies equally to the loss of humans or animals, or anything that means a great deal to you. It is helpful to reinforce the fact that grief is a process and doesn’t have an end date!! For many people just having your feelings over the loss of an animal validated by others’ acknowledgement of your pain helps considerably. You can think you are going a little crazy at times!!! You are normal!!
I hope if you are currently suffering the loss of a pet that you can soon remember with a smile, and not tears, the cherished time you shared with your pet.
© 2012 Jane Galbraith
Jane Galbraith, BScN, R.N., is the author of “Baby Boomers Face Grief – Survival and Recovery”. Her work in the community health field included dealing with palliative clients and their bereaved families and has also assisted facilitating grief support groups. She speaks to many organizations and employers including the Bereavement Ontario Network annual meeting and the Canadian Palliative Care and Hospice Conference in the fall of 2007, 2010 and other workshops in the United States in 2009. She is working with various employers that want to change the corporate culture with regards to handling grief in the workplace.