The vet’s office: Dealing with the loss of a pet
How societal expectations impact the mourning process
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
As long as people have owned pets, they have had to go through the process of grieving the loss when they pass away. The journey through the feelings and stages of grief is different for everyone, but there are many common experiences.
Just like with human family members, people form strong attachments with pets. People tend to move more and not have as many extended family members around, but their pets accompany them on each move and turn in their life.
Pets provide stability in a life of increasing stress. When the pet is gone, owners suddenly are left to feel a depth of emotions they may have never felt before.
Where this differs from the loss of a human family member or friend is that with people there is the support system built in with understanding family and professionals to offer expert counseling. Plus, there is a lot to do in making arrangements that takes the mind off of the actual loss. People are expected to openly grieve and are given time off of work.
With the pet owner, there is nothing to provide a filter, and in rush strong grief emotions. Some people feel silly showing active mourning of their pet and also feel as if society has a built-in time limit for grief over animals.
The grieving owner must be made to feel he or she does not have to get over or bypass that grief. It is a process that starts with honoring the spirit of the deceased pet. Allowing a person to tell his or her story of a life that was shared may help in active mourning. There may be stories of previous losses that are brought to mind. Just spending quiet time and not even talking is helpful as silence is often golden. In time the owner will achieve a new normal in life without this precious pet.
If you know someone who is grieving a pet loss, hopefully you can help honor the pet and support the person’s feelings. Some people may want to contact support groups or visit online bereavement counselors for additional reassurance.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.