Has a friend ever confided in you that the loss of their pet caused more grief than the death of a close relative? Have you ever felt this way yourself?
Society has conditioned us to feel ashamed of such emotions, but research suggests we are more than justified when we deeply mourn the loss of a furry friend.
If you are a pet owner, you already know that there are no words that can describe the joy and love pets bring in the home. Pets are a perfect company, they welcome us at the door, eagerly waiting for us to spend some time playing with them, they can perform numerous pranks and tricks to make us laugh, they are amazing with kids, and they offer unconditional love.
Pets are always there for us when we are feeling blue or lonely, when we need comfort and a warm hug, and when we are happy that life can sometimes be too beautiful to be true. This explains why people find it too difficult to say goodbye to their pets. The loss of a pet is always a traumatic and painful experience, as it is the departure of a best friend.
” When our first family dog, Spike passed away, my father suffered terribly. He would come home from work and just sit in his car, unable to face walking through the door without our little Poodle mix to greet him. He took long walks and visited online pet loss support groups. He woke up crying in the night.”
Numerous people underestimate the pain felt after losing a dog or a cat, or any other pet, so researchers investigated the extent of sorrow owners feel in these cases. The study was carried out in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Mexico. Researchers questioned pet owners about their feelings after the loss of their pet, and they all agreed that the pain has been too intense and deep.
The experts I talked to emphasized that our relationship to pet loss has changed over the last century. “It’s not surprising to me that we feel such grief over the loss of a pet, because in this country at least they are increasingly considered family members,” says Leslie Irvine, a sociologist at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Sixty-eight percent of Americans own a pet, an increase of twelve percent since surveys of pet ownership started in the 1988, when it was already booming.
And depending on the relationship, the loss of a pet can be more traumatic than the grief we feel after the death of family and friends. In part, this is because pets share some of our most intimate relationships—we see them every day, they depend on us, we adjust our lives around their needs—and yet publically grieving their loss is not socially acceptable.