Many pet owners consider their dogs to be their “fur babies”. They are so much more than an animal that you own. About 68% of households in the US have a pet, so pretty much everybody has a four-legged friend.
Although many people already consider their pet to be part of their family, new research shows that the time it takes to grieve a pet can be similar to losing a human family member, and in some cases even more difficult.
We share many meals and happy, loving memories with our dogs, so in their absence, it is only understandable to go through all of the feelings of grief and loss.
Understanding this, and not simply telling someone suffering from the loss of a pet to “get over it” will be helpful for anyone going through such a difficult time.
Continue reading for some of the reasons why it can be so challenging to get over the loss of a pet. Many people experience feelings of sadness when they lose a pet, and it is normal to feel sad.
Bonding Creates Strong Emotional Connections
Research shows that the connections made between dogs and humans can be compared to the close friendships that we share with people.
The time spent together and physical touch creates the same hormones in the brain as when we are doing that with human beings. So, in your mind and in your routine your dog actually does become part of your tribe. When you lose a pet, it is totally normal to feel down, and it is something that many people go through.
Grief is a Natural Process
The bonds with humans and dogs and humans with people are very similar in a lot of ways. However, there is no cultural grieving process for pets. With the loss of people, there is often a support system, condolence cards, flowers, and ceremonies. Therapists and counselors can help through the loss as well.
With a dog, there is a cultural pressure to move on as quickly as possible, because this is what is seen as important. It’s not seen as appropriate to have lower performance at work or to turn down social events, because many people do not view losing a pet as something that should be grieved over. However, emotionally many people consider their pets their best friends.
Unconditional Love and Support
Nothing offers the same feeling of love, joy, and acceptance as an animal friend. They offer nonjudgmental love and support every day, and their presence is often a source of comfort. To many people, a pet can make a house a home. When they pass, it’s normal to feel a sense of emptiness.
Every day memories and routines
Pets are often the first thing that you think about in the morning and the one that says goodnight at night. Suddenly not having to fill their food dish or walk them leaves an empty space in a daily routine. You don’t hear or see them anymore, and it can create an empty space in the home.
Feelings of Guilt or Responsibility
Pets are totally dependent on their owners, and the decisions about their lives are placed in their owners’ hands. In certain circumstances, pet owners feel as if they have no choice but to help ease their suffering. Although it might have been what was best, you might feel guilty and it’s difficult to get over it.
1. Iii.org. (2019). Facts + Statistics: Pet statistics | III. [online] Available at: https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-pet-statistics [Accessed 26 Jan. 2019].
2. Axelrod, J. (2019). Grieving the Loss of a Pet. [online] Psych Central. Available at: https://psychcentral.com/lib/grieving-the-loss-of-a-pet/ [Accessed 26 Jan. 2019].
3. Archer, John. “Why Do People Love Their Pets?” Evolution and Human Behavior, vol. 18, no. 4, 1997, pp. 237–259., doi:10.1016/s0162-3095(99)80001-4.
4. Wedderburn, Pete. “Loss of a Pet – How to Help Others Cope with the Grief.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 15 Aug. 2017, www.telegraph.co.uk/pets/news-features/loss-pet-help-others-cope-grief/