People love and appreciate their pets on a number of different levels. Where one person might see a silly creature, someone else is likely to see an intelligent, beloved family member. Regardless of how much or little you were able to appreciate a friend or loved one’s pet, make sure to take them seriously if they’re grieving the loss of a pet. Here’s why...
Even if a friend or family member’s grief over a lost pet doesn’t quite make sense to you, you owe it to them to take their pain seriously. The loss of a pet can be profoundly difficult. Some people fall into periods of grieving that can affect their ability to function socially or at work. They may lose weight or become susceptible to other health problems.
Many people develop deep emotional bonds with their pets. Some of them might argue the love they feel for their pets can rival the love a parent feels for a child. Others may consider their pets among their most trusted friends. You might not see what made your loved one’s pet so special, but what’s important is that they did.
This stands true regardless of what type of animal a person is grieving. A hamster could have been a ray of sunshine in one person’s day, a nippy little dog another’s reason to get out of bed in the morning. Try not to underestimate the importance that lost furry, feathered or scaled friend held to the person grieving. You might not be feeling the loss, but the void that little animal left might feel like a bottomless chasm to your grieving friend.
Studies have shown the loss of a pet can affect people like any other death in the family. People who’ve lost pets often go through the same stages of grief as those who have suffered human losses. They may have a hard time eating, which can lead to weight loss, and they might suffer from sleep disturbances and other health issues. They might have trouble committing to social events or even functioning at work.
As a caring friend or family member, just remember that grief is grief. Little in this world is as painful as the heart-crushing despair that comes with losing someone you loved dearly. All color seems to fade from the world, and you wonder if you’ll be capable of seeing anything but gray ever again. Nothing seems to make as much sense as it did before, and nothing feels quite right --- so be patient if your friend isn’t his or herself for a while.
When you’re suffering so deeply and the world’s response is, “But it was only an animal,” you hear your suffering is invalid. It says what you’re going through is somehow less real than the pain someone else may be feeling over a human death. To the person grieving, the world as they knew it ended with that loss, and your support can make a difference in how profoundly it affects them.
We all process death in our own way, and we define family on equally personal terms. No one should ever have their grief minimized, and no one should ever have to apologize for grieving the loss of an animal. Be supportive, listen to the person and let them process the loss on their terms, in their time. Take them seriously --- because they shouldn’t have to grieve alone.
~ Here’s to Your Health and Wellness