Pet lovers experience the joy and sadness that owning a pet brings. Eventually we all experience the loss of a pet. Losing a pet, in many ways, is not unlike losing any other loved one. It can cause feelings of loneliness, sorrow, and even anger and depression. We bond with our pets in different ways, and how we bond affects how we mourn. For some of us, our pet is more than “just a dog” or “just a cat”, but is instead a friend and companion. For others, we may feel that our pet is an extension of the family, or we may have treated our pet like a child. Grief can be compounded when the pet was a source of comfort during certain events or tragedies, such as the death of a loved one or times of extreme loneliness, difficulty, or unhappiness. How long we grieve the loss of a beloved pet can last days or months to a year or more. Extended periods of grief are not abnormal, but people who are not pet lovers may not understand this kind of grief. It is important to seek out people who can understand and give needed support as part of the grieving process. This can be a pet support group that meets online or in person or a pet support hotline.
Children may have a particularly difficult time dealing with the death of a pet. For some children this may be their first encounter with this type of tragedy or they may feel extreme sadness over a dog or cat that they've loved and befriended. Parents should be honest about the death of the animal and encourage the child to express his or her feelings about the pet. Holding a small memorial service for the animal with the entire family will help children to grieve and help validate their feelings about the death of their pet. The loss of a pet may also be exceptionally difficult for seniors. For some seniors, their pet is their sole source of companionship on a daily basis. The death of a companion animal can be especially difficult in these cases, particularly if the pet belonged to a deceased family member. When this is the case it is important for seniors to seek out counseling or support to help them through the grieving process.
Author: Jim Tedford
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