The loss of a pet can be a very upsetting experience and it can be difficult for others to understand your grief. In this situation, it’s easy to feel isolated but it’s important to remember that there are steps you can take and support available. Understanding why you feel this way, and validating your own feelings can be very helpful, as part of the grieving process.
Losing a pet can be an extremely personal experience especially if you are surrounded by people who might not understand the bond that you had with your pet. Disenfranchised grief is the term used when grieving does not fit with society’s attitudes about how we all deal with death and loss. Unfortunately, in most cases, the grief surrounding the death of a pet is not recognised the same way as it would be following the loss of a human. This lack of understanding can lead you to feel isolated and unheard.
Grieving a pet
No one experiences grief the same way. It’s a natural response to a loss of any kind. Losing a pet can be just as painful as losing a friend or family member, to many a pet is part of the family and should not be treated any differently. It’s important to take your time and acknowledge that your loss is valid.
Types of isolation
Isolation can manifest itself into different experiences and tends to lead on from a period of grief.
If you had a pet which was an active element of your social life, it can be isolating when suddenly your common interest with others is gone. Although your friends will still welcome you, it can be upsetting to attend social gatherings that remind you of your pet. As a result, you may distance yourselves from others leading to physical isolation.
This type of isolation can be felt most when you sense that you’re not being heard and have no one to talk to. It can be particularly difficult speaking to someone about the loss of a pet (compared to that of a friend or family member) especially when it’s not always a shared experience. This can be especially true if you live alone or are a single parent helping children come to terms with the loss of a family pet.
Ways to cope with grief and isolation
Your loss will be unique to you and there is no correct way to cope. Take time for yourself and consider some techniques which may help.
- Get the right support by speaking to a pet bereavement counsellor who will understand and listen to your experiences and your memories of your pet.
- Try different ways to share your grief; this could be something as simple as writing about how you feel, sharing your favourite memories or creating a memorial.
- Keep your pet’s belongings; you may find holding or keeping them close by can help you feel connected.
- Make sure you take care of yourself and allow time for your emotions.
- If you have other pets make sure you check on them too.
Who can I talk to?
There are pet bereavement organisations who can offer you support if you have no one to talk to. They understand that your loss is valid and are there to listen. These organisations include the Blue Cross, Paws to Listen, Friends at the End, The Ralph Site and many more. You may also find support groups on Facebook where you’re able to share your experiences and get validation from others who have also lost a pet. Groups like these can help you form connections with others and feel part of a community again.
How can I help someone experiencing the loss of their pet?
Offering support to someone who is experiencing the loss of their pet can make a big difference to them.
- Spend time listening and allow them to talk about their feelings.
- Recognise their loss and provide validation for their feelings.
- Try to understand their loss from their perspective rather than your own.
- Pets cannot be replaced easily, in exactly the same way that no human relative can be. It’s best to avoid recommending getting another pet until they are ready.
- If they’re unaware of any pet bereavement organisations, share a few recommendations with them.
- Respect their decisions if they want some time alone.
Remember that your loss is valid, and you’re allowed to grieve the death of your pet without fear of judgement. Be kind to yourself and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
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