People who grieve over the loss of a pet sometimes wonder if it’s normal. According to a recent issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, the death of an animal companion can trigger a grieving process similar to what happens after the loss of a close friend or family member.
Studies suggest that the grieving process can go on for weeks or months.
Pets spend so much time with us that they are sometimes our closest confidantes. The bond is often as emotionally valuable as a human relationship. When a pet dies, we expect our pain to be understood by relatives and friends, but the importance of our loss may not be appreciated by others. The lack of response from friends or families may compound grief.
You do not need to justify your feelings to anyone, or have anyone else’s approval to mourn the loss of your pet.
The five stages of mourning; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, are universal and can be experienced no matter what the loss. We must work through each step before achieving a peaceful acceptance of death.
If your home is a multi-pet household, be aware that other pets are bound to notice the absence of a companion. Pets often form strong attachments to each other, and the survivor may grieve for its companion.
You may need to give your surviving pets some extra attention and love to help them through this period. The love you share with them can be wonderfully healing for your own grief.
If you are not receiving the support you need to help you through your grief, there are places to turn for help. The Companion Animal Listening Line at Ohio State University is a hotline staffed by veterinary student volunteers. Call: (614) 292-1823 – M-F 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm EST, Sat-Sun 10 am – 4 pm EST; voice-mail messages will be returned. Hours may be more limited during summer months.
For Clevelanders, there is a Pet Loss and Bereavement Support Group held the last Wednesday of each month (excluding August) at The Cleveland Hts. Main Library, 2345 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts. For more information, contact Tina at (216) 407-4037, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Free and open to the public. Preregistration is suggested as seats are limited.
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