Pet Grief is Different for Everyone

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Few things hit harder than the death of a pet.  Many people have said their pet passing away was more painful than losing a parent, sibling, or friend. Why is that? And if we feel that way, does that mean something’s wrong with us? Absolutely not.

Pet Grief is Different for Everyone

Few things hit harder than the death of a pet.  Many people have said their pet passing away was more painful than losing a parent, sibling or friend.  Why is that?  And if we feel that way, does that mean something’s wrong with us?  Absolutely not.

Here are just a few reasons why our pet relationships are very special:

  • Pets are dependent beings whose lives are in our hands every day.  Unlike children who eventually become self-sufficient, our pets always need us
  • They’re under our roof and part of our daily lives
  • Our pets offer unconditional love, emotional support, and companionship

Grief is unpredictable

Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio, LMFT, LCSW is a family therapist and co-author of The Pet Loss Companion. He graciously worked with Dakin in creating videos that help people get through pet loss grief.  

Ken states that grief affects everyone differently, comes at us in stages…and not always in ways that make sense. You can experience shock, denial, pain, guilt, and depression in any sequence, and recovery is not always upward (the “one step forward, two steps back” pattern can happen). As Ken notes, there is no time limit on grief. It’s important, however, to be able to conduct your life as you normally would; to get out of bed, fulfill your duties at work or home and stay connected to loved ones and friends. When you find difficulty living your life following a pet loss, a therapist could offer help.

Self-care is essential

One important point Ken makes is to be gentle with yourself and avoid negative self-judgment. It’s important to let the emotions of grief wash over you; numbness, confusion, forgetfulness, sadness, and even anger. It’s very helpful to seek the company of those who understand you and won’t minimize your feelings (like asking why you’re so upset, because “it was just a pet”).

For those of you dealing with pet loss, take care of yourself. Get good sleep, eat well, and exercise.  Reach out for support, and remember that better days are ahead.

Watch Ken's video series on pet loss, in collaboration with Dakin Humane Society.

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