Journey of Grief and Loss
The relationship you have with your pet is special and sacred. When this relationship changes, you may experience many different feelings. And that’s ok! Grief and loss is the necessary journey of healing. Things to know about this journey include:
- Grief is a personal response to loss. The hurt you’re feeling is because the relationship with your pet mattered.
- If you pet is diagnosed with a terminal illness, you may experience anticipatory grief.
- Whether death, a chronic medical diagnosis, or behavioral changes in your pet, loss can come in many forms.
- There are two types of loss: Primary and Secondary
- Primary loss is the actual loss such as death, a medical diagnosis, or change in behavior.
- Secondary losses are incurred as a result of the primary loss. These might include, but are not limited to, not being able to walk your dog, giving away your pet’s things, and/or changes in your daily routine.
- The grieving process is individualized. You may grieve differently for each loss you experience.
- The grieving process has no time limits. People may ask, “Aren’t you over it already?” Some losses we never fully “get over.” Instead, we adjust to life in a new way. Your relationship with your pet never diminishes; your pet lives on in your thoughts, heart, and memories.
- The grieving process requires us to share our losses with others in order to heal. This part of the process is called mourning. In some cultures, mourning might be wearing black clothes or engaging in a ritual that lets others know you are grieving. Share your grief with those you trust, including joining a Pet Loss Support Group.
- Pet loss sometimes is considered a disenfranchised loss. A disenfranchised loss is any loss that society does not deem as important or does not allow for the openness of grieving. Some people will not understand the depth of your relationship with your pet and will minimize your feelings. Choose who you share your loss with to get the maximum support you need.
- Rituals are important during this time because it allows us to express our grief. Find ways to memorialize your pet.
- Grief may express itself physically as well as emotionally and mentally. It’s always a good idea to follow up with your doctor to make sure the physical symptoms aren’t something more serious.
- There are different types of grief and some require the support and help of a mental health professional or grief counselor. Don’t hesitate to reach out.
- Self-care will be more important than ever but it will be challenging to do. Don’t allow guilt and/or shame to trick you into thinking you don’t deserve to be taken care of during this difficult time.
This is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as medical/mental health advice. Please consult your medical doctor or a mental health therapist if you need continued support and care.