Have you ever had a friend tell you that losing their dog caused them more grief than losing a close relative? Have you ever had a similar experience?
Society has taught us to be ashamed of such feelings, but research shows that we are more than justified in our grief over the loss of a pet.
My father was devastated when our first family dog, Spike, died. He’d come home from work and sit in his car, unable to face entering the house without our little Poodle mix to greet him. He went for long walks and checked out pet loss support groups on the internet. In the middle of the night, he awoke crying.
Years later, when my own grief buckled my knees, this was the same man who would practically carry me out of a family funeral. I was perplexed by his varying reactions at the time, but a recent Business Insider article clarifies the situation.
It turns out that humans are more likely to experience more intense pain when they lose a pet than when they lose a close friend or even a relative.
For many people, the death of a pet is almost identical to the death of a loved one in almost every way. Despite the fact that there is research to back this up, there are almost no cultural rituals to help us cope.
When a person dies, there are obituaries, eulogies, religious ceremonies, and family and friend gatherings. We are given time off work and, in some cases, bereavement pay. We are encouraged to mourn and express our emotions in a variety of ways.
When a pet passes away, we don’t always have these traditions or sympathetic supporters to fall back on. The majority of people are expected to immediately resume all of their responsibilities, with little or no closure.
The house is unusually quiet and reeks of bittersweet memories. We’ve lost a close friend and steadfast companion, but the magnitude of our loss goes almost unnoticed.
Pet owners are made to feel as if their grief is excessive, dramatic, or even shameful. “It was just a dog,” after all. Dogs have an incredible human-animal bond that is often overlooked.
Our dogs constantly give us positive feedback. They adore us just because we’re “us.” They help us feel better by lowering our blood pressure and elevating our mood. How could we not be heartbroken if that was taken away from us?
There’s also the issue of the abrupt life changes that come with losing a pet. No more wet-nosed wake-up calls at 6 a.m., daily walks, or warm greetings at the end of a long day at the office. Many people’s pets provide them with a sense of purpose – even a reason to exist. It’s understandably life-changing when that suddenly vanishes.
A phenomenon known as “misnaming,” as Business Insider points out, is another intriguing factor. It refers to our habit of referring to a child, partner, or loved one by their pet’s name.
This indicates that we think of our dogs in the same way we think of our family members. That is essentially what we have lost when they d.i.e. A much-loved member of the family.
A pet’s death means the loss of an unconditional source of love, a devoted companion, and a source of security and comfort. Our dogs have become an inextricable part of our daily lives. Yes, it is painful. Even more so than the death of a close friend or relative. And there’s no reason to feel embarrassed about it.