Grieving the Death of your Pet
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Owen Redahan. MBACP. B.Sc.(Agr)
1st August, 20130 Comments
A lot people suffer greatly upon the death of their dog or cat. Others, unfortunately, feel that they shouldn’t grieve the passing of a pet; they may feel that grieving should only be for dead people. Some may also even feel guilty that they are reacting to the loss so badly.
However, it is not surprising that the death of a pet can cause intense grief. No-one should suggest to the pet owner ‘to buy another and just get over it’. Although there are those who won’t understand the impact of the death of an animal and so may have disinterested attitude, for most of us our pets become a significant part of our lives especially if they are animals, such as dogs or cats, that interact with us. They can be a source of companionship and comfort, and a strong bond can form between owner and pet. They can even be part of the family.
Grieving is a very personal experience. In time most of us accept our loss and move on. We don’t forget, but we learn to cope with the loss. Sometimes, however, our grief disrupts our lives, both personal and work, to the extent we become almost non-functioning. This is when seeing a counsellor may help.
Some people, mourning the loss of a pet, feel that they will be laughed at and so avoid talking to friends about their loss or going to a counsellor. But this shouldn’t happen. Counsellors are trained to accept people for what they feel and not to judge. If you are having difficulties around the loss of a pet then you are having difficulties - you don't need to pretend that anything else is the case.
There are a number of recognised stages in the grieving process, and we can become stuck at any of these stages. You may be feeling guilt that you didn’t do something to prevent the death, or that you had your pet put down. You may be going through a period of denial and not accepting that your beloved pet has died. Anger is not unusual and can become intensive. It is also not unusual to bargain - to say that you will do something, change something if only your pet could be alive once more. Periods of depression, lethargy and feelings of not just not wanting to bother with anything else are common. The final stage is acceptance of the death. How long this takes depends on the individual and their circumstances.
The most important thing is to accept the pain and not to deny it.This can be difficult and frightening. Take all the time you want or need, but just keep an eye out to make sure that you haven’t become stuck in your grief. If you think you have then you may need professional help; or talking to a friend may just give you the support you need.
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