Attachment and Pet Loss

Pet Loss is not Irrelevant or Insignificant

One of the most disenfranchised loss in grief is pet loss.  So many times, people find pet loss to be insignificant or not important.  Due to this, many people lose important counseling and compassion in their loss of a pet.
Some people may feel, since it is not a human person, they should not burden others with their loss, or that other people might dismiss their loss as trivial.  The reality is the loss of a pet is a loss of a family member.  The attachment to the pet may vary from person to person but when one loses a pet, there is some form of attachment that has been severed.  Of course, there is a huge difference between a fish and a dog, but regardless, losing a friend that has been at your side for years will cause an emotional emptiness.
Attachment theory teaches that the greater the dependency and the stronger the bond, the

greater the pain if that bond is broken.  Many people have close relationships with their pets that are critical to their everyday lives.  The young child or the old man all find great comfort in their cat or dog.  This is especially true for the elderly.  In some cases, the shut ins of the world only have their dog or cat as companions.  With a spouse deceased and no children, some older people suffer a large emotional loss when a pet dies.
With these things in mind, it is important to realize that in grief counseling, especially pet loss grief counseling, one cannot dismiss a loss simply because it is a pet.  Instead, one should focus on the attachment level of the loss and not who the loss is.

By Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C