Grieving the Death of a Furry Family Member

Pets bring us joy when they enter our life. Pets bring us love throughout their lives. And pets bring us pain, sorrow and grief when they die. Of course they do. A pet is a friend and a family member. We grieve the death of any family member.

Ararf, Squirrel, Brutus, Sadie, Wiley — all dogs I have loved and lost. Cats are no different. We’ve loved & lost Digit, Rosie, Rocket, Grits, Guinnan, and Kenai. All are gone — all are still here in our hearts.

Grief for a pet is fundamentally the same as grief for the death of a person. Why should it feel any different? Yet, even if we have accepted grief as a natural response to the death of a person, we sometimes feel a little odd assigning those same feelings to grieving our pets.Especially since it sometimes seems to hurt even more when a pet dies.

That feeling, too, is natural. And we are starting to explore more about our human response to the death of a pet. Here are some links to articles and videos on the subject:

Coping with the death of your pet (Humane Society)

When a person you love dies, it’s natural to feel sorrow, express grief, and expect friends and family to provide understanding and comfort.
Unfortunately, you don’t always get that understanding when a pet dies. Some people still don’t understand how central animals can be in people’s lives, and a few may not get why you’re grieving over “just a pet.”

Why We Need to Take Pet Loss Seriously (Scientific American)

Losing a beloved pet is often an emotionally devastating experience. Yet as a society, we do not recognize how painful pet loss can be and how much it can impair our emotional and physical health. Symptoms of acute grief after the loss of a pet can last from one to two months, with symptoms of grief persisting up to a full year (on average).

Nobody Can Tell You How to Feel After Losing a Pet (SELF)

We may not openly talk about pet grief in polite society, but most pet owners know that a pet isn’t just an animal. They’re also a beloved member of the family and a huge source of unconditional love, affection, and comfort. That’s because, unlike other relationships, animals offer an organic connection that you don’t have to overthink or worry about. You love them and they love you—it’s that simple.

Dealing with pet loss: How to help a grieving pet parent (Washington Post)

“Your pets follow you into bathroom. They sleep with you. They are your shadow. Human family members don’t do that,” said Leigh Ann Gerk, a pet loss grief counselor in Loveland, Colo., and founder of Mourning to Light Pet Loss. “Humans don’t go crazy with joy when you come back inside after getting the mail. Human relationships, while important, can be difficult. Our relationship with our pets is simple. They love us just as we are.”

Coping with the loss of a pet (American Veterinary Medical Association)

When a beloved pet dies, the loss can bring grief and intense sorrow. By physically showing your grief, you actively mourn the death of your beloved pet. This active mourning helps move you on a journey toward reconciling with the loss of your pet.

Finally, here’s a trio of TEDx talks offering insights about the death of a pet:

They say every pet you’ve ever loved will come running to greet you at the Rainbow Bridge. Frankly, that worries me just a bit. Brutus was such a scrapper, he’s likely to growl & snap all the others — at least the males.

Wonder what he’ll make of Stella.

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
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