By US Desk
Fri, 06, 21

Dogs recognise people and can learn to interpret human emotional states from their facial expression alone. Losing them means losing that security and comfort as well....


A pet may symbolise a child, sibling, best friend, or long-term companion. It becomes a part of your family and daily life. Your morning routine may not be complete without playing fetch with your dog or snuggling with your feline.

It teaches you responsibility, patience, kindness, discipline, playfulness and, most importantly, unconditional love. Cats, for example, may seem nonchalant a lot of the time. But if you’re sad, there’s a good chance they’ll come over and sit with you.

Research has shown that dogs help people get out of their homes, serving as a “social lubricant” who promote interaction and conversation between strangers. Losing a dog, means losing that motivation to leave the house for a walk in the park, losing the reason to chat with a stranger on a street, and losing that easy conversation starter too.

Also, dogs recognise people and can learn to interpret human emotional states from their facial expression alone. Losing them means losing that security and comfort as well.

While losing a pet is painful and overwhelming, unfortunately, it can also be a very lonely process, as community support typically associated with death is absent when a pet dies. To make matters worse, grieving owners may feel embarrassed over the extent of their own heartbreak and feel ashamed to reach out to friends for comfort.

Typically, there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. People do not cycle through these stages in a lock-step manner, sometimes anger comes first or denial comes third.

Denial is a normal part of the grieving process. Just make sure you don’t deny your grief. Allow yourself to express your feelings in any way that benefits you. Expressing your feelings can be truly cathartic.

Anger is a normal stage of grieving and it is common for pet owners to become angry at the “why” and “how” their pet died. Was it a terrible accident? Was it an incurable disease or illness?

Becoming angry at the reason for the pet’s passing might eventually lead to bargaining. You might say things to yourself such as: “If only I could have three more days with Fido.” The constant “what ifs” and “if onlys” can be extremely stressful and unsettling.

Depression or sadness is, for many, the longest stage. Some people will always hold a small amount of sadness in their hearts for their beloved pets. Your loss is significant and it makes sense that you will be sad when you think about your pet.

Acceptance is the final stage, but accepting a loss does not mean forgetting the memories. At this stage, you may feel like your life is becoming normal again and you may even consider adopting another pet.

Remember, grief has no timeline and no boundaries. Your level of grief may depend on your age and personality, your pet’s age and personality, and the circumstances of your pet’s death, as well as the relationship between you and your animal.

Often, individuals who live alone take longer to grieve because their pet played such an important role in their lives. The same is true for disabled people because the animal was not just a companion but also a vital aid to their daily tasks.

It is normal to believe that your dog or cat will still be around to greet you at the door when you arrive home. You also may catch yourself thinking about feeding, watering, or walking your pet, and then realise it is not there. Perhaps you will look of your window to check on your horse or goat, and then suddenly remember that it has died.

Join a pet bereavement group or schedule an appointment with a therapist who specialises in grief. It might be very difficult for you to talk about what happened or what you saw, as telling the story can cause you to feel as though you are reliving the event. However, talking with others who are supportive and understand the bond you had with your pet can help this process along.

Forgive yourself if you couldn’t be around them all the time, because of growing up, moving out, or just not having the time. Forgive yourself if you gave your pet too many treats. Forgive yourself if you couldn’t get it to the vet’s office sooner.

Death isn’t about the person or the animal who isn’t around anymore; it’s about you and the others who are left behind. It’s really important you give yourself permission to grieve your pet too, as trying to suppress it or pretending it doesn’t exist will only make the pain come back twice as hard. Maybe frame a photo of your pet, plant a tree in your pet’s memory or create a symbolic gravestone. Keeping the memories of your beloved companion alive can be the healthiest way to get through the grief.

If a friend has lost a pet, take the loss seriously. Consider sending a sympathy card or bringing them some food as you would for someone who has lost a human friend — even if you don’t fully understand their grief. This is about your friend’s loss, not your feelings about pets after all. While there’s no easy way to help alleviate someone else’s overwhelming grief, at least we can make every effort not to make things worse by telling someone it was “only a dog” or “you can get another fish.”

The best things to say to someone in grief:

  • I am so sorry for your loss.
  • I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can.
  • You and your loved ones will be in my thoughts and prayers.
  • My favourite memory of () is…
  • I am always just a phone call away.
  • Give a hug instead of saying something.