Sitting on the couch with someone versed in psychology, choked up and holding back the tears, I mentioned I was going through a hard time with my terminally ill dog. The reply? ‘I cried buckets for weeks when I lost my cat, it was ridiculous really.’
Why is it ridiculous to grieve for a pet? Why do people think losing your closest companion isn’t as difficult as losing a family member or friend?
When you are losing, or have lost, a pet, you can find yourself in a very lonely place. No one will feel the loss in the same way you will. It will not affect their lives the way it affects yours. And you may resent the world around you for that.
The journey you’re going on hasn’t been mapped, as the grief that follows pet loss turns out to be a place none of us know until we get there. Men, women, children, teenagers – we all do it differently.
Losing your pet and the decision to choose euthanasia may be the most difficult things you have ever done. Often the people who surround you, your friends, family and work colleagues, seem to have little comprehension of how losing your familiar, four-legged though they may be, can have the same gravity as losing a human family member.
A 1994 study found that, with few exceptions, the grief experience associated with the death of a companion animal is similar to that associated with the loss of a significant human. The difference is that while close friends and elderly family members who pass away are separate from the ongoing daily routine of home life, we set our clocks around those we care for personally and this includes a special four-legged friend.
In fact, not only are they the ones we live with day-in and day-out, talk to on a regular basis and have a close relationship with as our most constant companion, they are the ones who stood quietly beside us during life’s monumental moments, commented little but listened always.
For those of us who are facing pet loss or have a friend they would like to support here are some tips.
How to support a friend:
- Listen, laugh, cry with your friend
- defend your friend’s right to grieve
- keep in touch
What to say:
- I’m very sorry for your loss
- I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for you
- How are you feeling?
- I care about you
- We have a lot of memories together regarding (pet). Do you remember when….?
What not to say:
- At least you have other pets
- You can get another pet to replace the one you lost
- Your pets in a better place
- I know just how you feel
- It was just a pet
- Don’t cry
- You should….
- You shouldn’t….
- You have to be strong
- Big boys (girls) don’t cry and carry on
- Don’t tell people how to grieve
Best to avoid:
- They are at peace-not suffering anymore
- They are in a better place
- It was for the best
- It was just their time
- They wouldn’t want you to be so sad
- You can get another dog/cat
- Are you going to grieve forever?
Call us on 09 377 667 to make an appointment or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can look after you and your special friend.