Losing a pet is a painful loss that many try to diminish. The true reality is that losing a pet is like losing family. One’s grief for this loss must be recognized and not reduced to such horrible statements as “he was just a dog” or “she was just a cat”
The American Academy of Grief Counseling offers a Pet Loss Grief Support Certification for qualified professionals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Pet Loss Grief Support. Please review the program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals
Please also review the video on Pet Loss Grief Support
Losing a pet, especially a dog is a big loss. People should not feel guilty in sharing their grief. The loss can be as painful as losing a family member and should not be shelved away or not discussed as secondary to a human life. This type of disenfranchisement can hurt individuals grieving their pet or dog. It does not permit them to grieve and discuss the loss and how it has affected their lives. It is important to recognize pet loss in a person’s life.
The article, “My Beloved Dog Just Died. I Don’t Know How To Grieve Without Feeling Guilty.” by Ann Gorewitz discusses her grief and guilt for grieving her pet. She states,
“Our pets’ lives have value ― they matter! ― even though society often trivializes our relationships with them. And though I feel like I’m not supposed to grieve Cassie’s death as intensely or profoundly as I do ― especially during a pandemic when so many other truly awful things are happening ― her life and the loss of it is momentous to me, and maybe more so because of COVID-19.”
The loss of a pet, especially a dog, cat or horse can be devastating. It is not something to be tossed to the side. It cannot be compared or lessened to the loss of a family member because pets are family. The loss of a dog especially can be very traumatic to a family. A dog plays a special role in the family’s life. In many ways, a dog from puppy to death is like having a child and losing him or her. The attachment and love is real and should not be mocked or ridiculed. Yet, people feel ashamed at times to express this love and pain for fear of ridicule.
It is important to not reduce the impact of a loss of a dog or pet. The article, “Why losing a dog can be harder than losing a relative or friend” by Frank McAndrew states,
“Research has confirmed that for most people, the loss of a dog is, in almost every way, comparable to the loss of a human loved one.”
Great article on talking to a child about the death of a pet. The death of a pet is a horrible loss but is also usually the first death experience for a child. It is important to properly grieve the loss but to also use it as teaching moment to explain death. While a teaching moment may be very difficult for the loss of a dog, horse or cat, it may be easier if it is a goldfish, or hampster.
The article, “The Dog Isn’t Sleeping: How To Talk With Children About Death” by Cody Turner states,
“My parents exchanged pained glances. I know now that life had put them in an impossible bind. Mingo had been dying for months and suffering for weeks. The vet urged euthanasia then and there. My parents reluctantly but humanely agreed. But how to tell me? So they didn’t, hoping to wait until after my birthday.”
Grieving a pet is critical to recovery. With pets being so much as like family, if one does not take the time to grieve the loss of a pet, then one can face further grief complications. Allowing oneself to grieve the loss of a pet can help one ultimately recover and accept the loss in a healthy fashion
The article, Paw Prints: Grieving process can bring you relief from pet’s death, by Niki Laviolette states,
“Most people love their pets enough to consider them members of the family. Pets provide companionship, emotional support and unconditional love. When a beloved pet dies, it’s natural to feel sorrow and experience grief.”
For children, the death of a pet may be the first experience with death. A child may blame himself, his parents or the veterinarian for not saving the pet. A child may also feel guilty, depressed and frightened that others he loves may be taken from him.
Good article on dealing with the pain and grief of losing a pet. Too many losing a pet is more than just losing an animal, but a friend and family member.
The article, HOW TO COPE WITH THE UNIQUE GRIEF OF LOSING A PET, by Gwendolyn Purdom, states,
“The relationships you have with your pets are different than any other relationship in your life. While your differing views on politics or your last boyfriend can complicate your bond with your mom, you and your dog (presumably) have no such issues.”