|Losing a pet is an emotionally devastating experience. As they are a part of our everyday lives, it would be extremely difficult to go on without them / Photo by: Joerg Huettenhoelscher via 123RF|
Losing a pet is an emotionally devastating experience. As they are a part of our everyday lives, it would be extremely difficult to go on without them. Pets support our emotional well-being and ensure that we don’t feel alone. This is why we feel aimless and lost in the days and weeks after our pet dies.
Research has confirmed that for most people, losing a pet can be harder than losing a relative or friend. For instance, according to The Conversation, a not-for-profit media outlet that uses content sourced from academics and researchers, psychologist Julie Axelrod stated that the loss of a dog is so painful because they often aren't treated as a pet. Dogs are treated as primary companions who provide security and comfort, and even unconditional love.
Sometimes, pet owners feel a bit embarrassed to show too much public grief over the loss of their pets because there are no grief rituals, no obituary in the local newspaper, and no religious service. Experiencing loss is an inevitable part of owning a pet. In one way or another, we all have to experience and cope with the pain.
The Grieving Process
Most of the time, owners feel lost after the death of their pet. They are clueless as to how they will survive another day without their favorite companion. But in order to cope with the loss, they have to go through different feelings. Although some can accept their loss in just a short time, others find that their grief is more cyclical, coming in waves, or a series of highs and lows. Even years after the loss, a sight, a sound, or a special anniversary can spark memories that trigger a strong sense of grief.
Most of the time, they go through the five stages of grief which were introduced in the 1997 book “On Death and Dying” written by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. According to The Spruce Pets, an online site that offers practical, real-life tips and training advice to help you care for your pet, the book aims to help people understand grief better. Here are the five stages, as mentioned in the book.
1 - Denial: Death is painful to accept. Thus, we tend to deny that it happens as a form of self-defense from reality.
2 - Anger: Anger starts to develop as soon as pet owners realize the reality. Usually, this is a combination of emotions that should be expressed. This stage often causes the mourner to blame people or things for their pet's death.
3 - Bargaining: Guilt is the primary feeling that owners experience during this stage. They often wonder how they could have prevented the pet's death.
4 - Depression: During the healing process, it’s normal that pet owners suffer from extreme loneliness, especially if their pets played a major role in their lives. It is valid for you to feel that way. However, serious long-term depression is a sign to seek help from a professional.
5 - Acceptance: Although this can seem impossible, pet owners eventually come to terms with the reality of death. Sadness and grief may remain forever, but it doesn’t mean that you will never get through it. Acceptance means you understand that life goes on.
Grief can become complicated for some pet owners. According to Psych Central, an independent mental health social network, some of us may suppress feelings so that we don’t appear weak. This will not help in the grieving process, as we shouldn't hide or deny our true emotional experience.
|During the healing process, it’s normal that pet owners suffer from extreme loneliness, especially if their pets played a major role in their lives / Photo by: Antonio Guillem via 123RF|
Coping With Grief
The grieving process happens gradually. You can't force or hurry it. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Nonetheless, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.
There are several things pet owners can do to cope with the loss of their pets. For instance, it’s important to remind yourself to be kind and patient with yourself. Your losses are real, painful, and evoke a variety of feelings and memories. It’s okay to grieve and spend time thinking about your beloved pets. It will not help to pressure yourself into moving on immediately because it will only make you feel worse.
As much as possible, try to talk or reach out to friends and family that will understand your grief. Check out online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and pet loss support groups. Most of the time, finding people who have also experienced the loss of a beloved pet may help you understand what you’re going through.
Most importantly, it’s important to look after yourself because losing a pet can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly to release endorphins and help boost your mood, and spend time with people who care about you.
|The grieving process happens gradually. You can't force or hurry it. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years / Photo by: Maxim Lupascu via 123RF|