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Grieving The Loss of a Pet

Mary-Lauren O’Crowley, NCC, LPC

Many of us have a strong emotional attachment to our furry friends. A pet is not “just a cat” or “just a dog” to us. They are a treasured member of our household who brings us company, laughter, joy, and even love. A pet may provide structure to your life, keep you social and active for the whole day, assist you in overcoming disappointments and problems, and even give you a feeling of purpose in life. So it’s natural to be overcome with sadness when a beloved pet passes away.

The Benefits of Having a Pet

Sadly, not everyone knows and understands the human-animal connection or even realizes how much a furry friend helps their owner. So, we start by looking at some benefits of having a pet.

1) Companionship

 Do you work a different shift schedule than your spouse, live alone, or don’t have any close companions? If so, a pet can be an excellent friend for whatever reasons you are lonely. Cats and dogs enjoy spending time with their owner, whether it’s playing a game or just being around.  It’s also a lovely feeling when you come home after a long day, and your dog welcomes you at the entrance with a tail so wagging, genuinely happy to see you. In addition, your furry friend adores you and will never judge or reprimand you, making their friendship more enjoyable.

2) A pet can help you stay in shape.

All breeds of dogs require daily walks to remain healthy, strong, and happy. However, we all have a propensity to become a little sluggish now and then – if this seems like you, a furry friend is the perfect remedy! Day after day, they’ll force you out to run around the field. A dog is, without a doubt, the best fitness coach you could have.

3) Dogs are beneficial to your cardiovascular system.

If you have a pet, research shows that you may live longer. Dog owners have a decreased rate of dying of heart complications, according to research published from 1950 through 2019. In addition, these studies show that a pet (dog) owner has a lower risk for blood pressure and has better stress responses.

A person who had previously experienced coronary episodes is less likely to suffer a heart attack and die when they live with a dog. In addition, according to research by Washington State University, a good relationship between you and your dog can help lower stress, which is a significant cause of cardiac problems.

Why does losing a cherished pet hurt so deeply, and how can you cope?

A pet’s loyalty and love are pure. We are never really concerned about the pet betraying our trust or their affection for us eroding. With a pet, we have the chance to love wholeheartedly and have that love reciprocated to us from an inexhaustible heart.

The pain of loss can be unbearable in the immediate aftermath. It disappears for a time, though. You might think you have recovered, but then a wave of sadness comes again. So far, time is the only treatment available. Grief and despair are natural and healthy responses to tragedy. Grief for our pets (like grieving for our human loved ones) must be handled gradually. There are some healthy ways to cope with the pain. Here are a couple of suggestions:

1) Talk through it

If you have pet-loving friends or family, they will comprehend what you’re dealing with; let them know how you’re feeling. Do not attempt to conceal your emotions by trying to show toughness and composure, this can cause a greater expression of emotion later on.

2) Have a memorial

Gathering people who also treasured your dog or cat and scheduling a time to memorialize them is an excellent approach to give your mourning some legitimacy.

3) Allow yourself to grieve

Because your animal friend may have been a long-term member of your family, grieving may take some time. Grief for as long as you need and move forward. 

4) Seek help

If your vet or local humane society does not have a pet-loss support network or hotline, ask if they can direct you to one. There are alternative options for dealing with your cherished pet’s death. Some people find that journaling, setting up a blog, or maintaining a scrapbook can be cathartic. You can even write a tale or poem about your furry companion, draw a picture, or create music about them.  If you feel so inclined, you can also donate to or volunteer at an animal shelter in remembrance of your pet. 

If you or someone you know is struggling to cope after the loss of a beloved pet, please reach out to the intake specialists at Symmetry Counseling today!

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