Part of the privilege of sharing our lives with a pet kid is the emotional bond we share with them. Even among these relationships, often there is one very special companion animal, whether a dog, cat, bird or even a reptile, who makes an indelible mark on our lives.
When we are faced with the loss of any pet kid, much less a truly exceptional companion, we may be surprised to find ourselves suffering from agonizing grief. Some people worry over the intensity of their feeling, doubting their right to grieve so acutely. Rest assured, beloved furry, feathery or scaly companions ARE NOT ‘just animals’. This sentiment, shared by some who have chosen not to share their lives with a pet kid, belittles your experience, so give it the credence it deserves … none.
Companion animals occupy special places in our hearts, and losing such a connection means that no one will ever fill that special place in quite the same way again.
Grieving the loss of a pet kid is normal, because the loss is real and it hurts. If you are in the midst of bereavement, I want you to know three important things:
1. Grief is a natural and normal reaction to the loss of a friend, including those with tails.
2. Grief affects everyone differently.
3. A multitude of web and print resources address this issue and may help you cope during this difficult time.
The most vital thing is to open yourself to grace and give yourself permission to react to loss, whatever feels most natural to you. People have unique grief experiences, which is to say, the individual members of a family may have varying reaction to the loss of the same companion animal. Normal reactions to grief include feelings of hopelessness, crying, denial, numbness and anger.
The many stages of grief are well-established, however be aware that the progression is not necessarily linear – i.e., they can occur before, during and after the loss of the beloved. Sadness can last quite some time, even many months, but with proper attention to yourself, you will recover. While the pain may recede with time, these feelings are a legacy, a reminder of the importance of the role they played in your lives.
Don't be tempted to navigate your grief alone. If you feel like you don’t have the proper support to help process the loss of a companion animal, please seek out help from the following list of ‘pre-approved’ sources. In addition, this popular article published on our own blog offers more on dealing with grief.
If you’ve recently lost a constant and dear companion, all of us here at Life’s Abundance hope you’ll be able to deal effectively with your loss and find solace in the happy times you shared.
Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.
Dr. Jane Bicks
ASPCA Pet Loss Support Hotline
University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine CARE Pet Loss Support Hotline
Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine Pet Loss Support Hotline
Cornell University Pet Loss Support Hotline
Tufts University Pet Loss Support Hotline
Petloss support website:
Argus Institute Colorado State University