What Does Grief Of A Pet Look Like
1. Impact on Identity. Much like that of children our pets are completely dependent on us, to feed them, take them out for walks, and give them the care that they need. This can give us a sense of purpose and is one of the benefits of having a pet, an increased sense of self that caretaking can give us.
When this is lost, it can impact our identity, no longer being a pet owner or seen in the neighborhood walking your dog. After all, what is a “crazy cat person” without their cat?
2. In the denial stage, this might look like an adjustment and acknowledgment even, that your pet is no longer with you. After losing my little Chiquita, I would sometimes imagine that she was still at home waiting for me, the sense of rushing home to make sure she was taken out or fed was still there, sometimes I would even feel like she was sitting next to me on the couch.
Our pets are different from our human relationships in that if we are home, they are there with us. Home can feel very different without our four-legged buddies.
3. Increased loneliness and emptiness are other aspects of grief that coincide with pet loss. Our pets are relationships and their pure devotion to us is something that many people need and long for in their lives and rarely find in humans the way they can be felt with our pets. My mother would often chuckle how our Cocker Spaniel growing up was the only one in the house that didn’t answer back.
It is true, our pets are pure in their loyalty, protection, and love for us. I guess you could say it has all the benefits of that best friend without the complication. Yes, they upset us at times with a present on the carpet or misbehavior on a walk, but then they look at us with those eyes and it all seems to fade away.
How To Cope
1. Give your grief space and time.
There’s no right or wrong way to cope with a loss, it is an individual process and you need to allow yourself to go through the process that you need to go through. I hope that this will be one of the biggest takeaways you will have from reading this article.
Internalizing your grief and telling yourself to snap out of it might be an instinct but will create more emotional turmoil in the end.
2. Find your support.
Despite the fact that there may be some social pressure to “get over it”, there is also a lot of support out there and there are people who do truly get it. Many of us have gone through the loss and know the pain and heartache that comes with the loss of a pet. I would encourage you to be honest about it and if you can take a few days off from work, do so.
When I lost my little Chiquita this past August I took a bereavement day and although I had colleagues tell me to take more days, I didn’t, as I felt the best thing I could do was to get back into my daily life and keep moving forward, despite the reminders all around me of her loss. Make sure that you take the time to grieve the loss of your beloved pet, it’s ok and it needs to be encouraged. If you have a therapist this is a good place to process this grief, there are also many resources in the community or through your vet that could help you connect to support around the loss of a pet.
Here is an online resource that might also be helpful. I know that finding a therapist these days can be challenging which is why I have partnered with an agency called Online Therapy that aims to bring therapy to people virtually from anywhere in the world. You can access this service with my affiliate link where you can get 20% off their service for the first month. If you have access to technology and don’t need to use insurance this may be a great option.