It is normal to experience grief following any sort of loss. No matter the type of loss or the manner in which it occurs, the resulting void can leave you feeling painfully empty inside and lead to both physical and emotional anguish. You need to heal, in your own way and on your own time.
Grieving in response to pet loss is no exception. The sudden absence of a pet can leave an aching emptiness. At one time, your pet shared in your life-your ups and your downs-unconditionally and without judgment. Your pet was an unfailing presence, a source of comfort, and a loving constant. The experience of pet loss removes that constant. Where once you had a sweet and loving responsibility, pet loss deprives you of the opportunity to nurture. Of course grief is a normal response to pet loss.
Many people do not understand the profound sadness associated with pet loss. Your friends’ recommendations to quickly replace your lost animal with a new one, however well meaning, are unhelpful and can feel callous. In essence they mock your feelings of real sadness and serve to isolate you in your grief. You might feel the need to hide your real feelings to avoid ridicule. Internalizing grief following pet loss is not the answer; it interferes with the grief process-and your healing.
Pet Loss: The Grieving Process
However difficult, it is important to recognize the validity of your feelings following pet loss and to accept the process of grief. Most people will experience some or all of the following stages in their experience of grief:
- Shock or Disbelief
- Acceptance and Hope
Whether you lost your pet due to death following a prolonged illness, or suddenly due to an accident, intense emotional reactions to pet loss are normal. Anxiety, depression, and deep sadness can be with you for a long time. Grief counseling can offer you the support you need during your healing process.
Pet loss is not limited to pet death. Perhaps your animal found itself outside the safe environment you had created for it, and disappeared. Perhaps circumstances-moving, financial difficulties, illness or an onset of allergies-required you to give your pet away. The pain of this sort of pet loss is by no means reduced. In fact, in such pet loss situations the resulting emotions-loneliness, anger, and guilt-can be acute. Loss therapy can help you work through these complex feelings.