Generously written by Mariah McConnell
Pets provide humans with a source of comfort and companionship which means the death or loss of a pet can have serious impacts on owners. Many owners view their pet as a member of their family but will come into contact with people who do not understand this deep loss.
Did you know?
- Humans connect with their pets through physical contact called comfort contact(Kwong & Bartholomew, 2011)
- Pets can create increased feelings of connectedness and can help combat feelings of loneliness and alienation (Wong et al., 2019)
- Individuals have reported that pet ownership increased their social connections, physical activity levels, and longevity of life (Mohanti, 2017)
It is no wonder that losing a pet is a painful experience. For many pet owners, the loss of a pet is equivalent to the death of a human (Park et al., 2021). It is normal that every person’s grieving process will look different but could include the following:
- Sharing memories about your pet
- Feelings of anger
- Wanting closeness
Learning how to cope with the intense feelings of grief can help owners to process the loss. Self-care is an essential part of grief; each person’s self-care will look different but it is important to maintain throughout the grieving journey. Below are some low- and no-cost ways to do self-care:
- Drinking water throughout the day
- Listening to music or podcast
- Talking to a friend or family member
- Go for a walk
- Cuddling up in your favorite blanket
- Do some deep breathing
- Stretching for 5, 10, or 15 minutes
- Practice self-massages on your hands
No two grief journeys will look the same. It is important to keep in mind that grief is not “stages” but a cycle where some days will be good and others will be worse. Remember to be kind and gentle with yourself during challenging times.
Kwong, M.J. & Bartholomew, K. (2011) “Not just a dog”: an attachment perspective on relationships with assistance dogs. Attachment & Human Development, 13(5), 421-436. DOI: 10.1080/14616734.2011.584410
Mohanti, B.K. (2017). Grieving the Loss of a Pet Needs the Health System Recognition. Journal of Social Work in End-of-life & Palliative Care. 13(4), 215-218. DOI: 10.1080/15524256.2017.1385568.
Park, R.M., Royal, K.D., & Gruen, M.E. (2021). A Literature Review: Pet Bereavement and Coping Mechanisms, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. DOI: 10.1080/10888705.2021.1934839
Wong, P.W.C., Yu, R.W.M., & Ngai, J.T.K. (2019) Companion Animal Ownership and Human Well-Being in a Metropolis – The Case of Hong Kong. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(1729), 1-14. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph16101729