WHEN YOUR PET DIES:
TIPS ON EXPLAINING PET LOSS TO NON-ANIMAL LOVERS
Article by Claire Chew
Photo Credit: Dasha & Mari
Magazine: Issue #29
When a human closes to us dies, society mirrors our loss with comforting words, acknowledgement, and for those of us lucky enough, home cooked deliciousness in forms of yummy casseroles. For those of us who work in Corporate America, we get three days off to attend a funeral, sit Shiva or other ways to honor the memory of the one we adored. We get a free pass to stay home, wear pajamas all day, melt into the couch, eat ice-cream, watch day-time TV or indulge in whatever pastime to help fill the aching hole in our heart.
It can be so different when saying good-bye to a furry family member. Some non-pet friends and family might ask “There are so many pets at the shelter, why don’t you get another one? ” Other well-meaning comments like “it was just a dog”, “a cat”, or “she was old, it was time, be glad she didn’t suffer” may surface. You would never say to a human “She was old, why don’t you get another one?”
When a human dies, someone organizes an event to celebrate the life of a loved one. A wake, a service, or a memorial. But if we wanted to do the same for our pets, those closest to us might find it odd. We want to celebrate the life we had with them too. For some of us, they’ve outlasted friendships, jobs, relationships and marriages.
To non-animal lovers and outsiders alike, we invite you into our world. Below are some examples of human/animal bond that explains the depths of the love, hence the loss, and hopefully shine light on why the loss of a pet is like losing a beloved human, and why in certain cases, even more.
We miss their unconditional love:
Our pets love us. Period. They do not judge our imperfections or insecurities. We always know where we stand with them. There’s no hidden agenda. We don’t have to try and please. They accept us. All of us. We open our hearts more fully to this bundle of pure love than those who may criticize or reject our vulnerability. This bond of trust and mutual respect and adoration deepens over days, weeks, and years. In loss, we may find that relationship rare, if not impossible to replace.
We care for them like family:
Our pets look to us for everything. They trust in us to provide shelter, food, and love. And it never stops. Unlike children whose needs may decrease over time, our pets needs only increase. We are fully responsible for our pets. Until the day they die. Like responsible humans, we book sitters when we are out of town. We throw birthday parties, go to yappy hour, play dates at dog park. Just like if you had children. So while some might say they are not our children, the loss can feel like losing a child.
Our pets are can be our best friend and a main source of stability and comfort:
Loyal, trusting, fun and dependable, our pets make perfect companions. For those of us who have dogs, he gets us outside in the fresh air, walks to Dog Park, tossing a tennis ball or two to get our energy flowing. This helps not only our physical body, but lower stress. Our feline friends loves to play, keeping u company when we are alone. When we are feeling down, petting and snuggling releases Oxytocin, the hormone that helps with lowering anxiety and mental stress. Our pets are always there for us, sensing intuitively when we need comfort or to lick a tear away. Their all accepting and caring attitude is hard to compare to humans, who may not always be that perfect.
So what can you do if you are a non-animal loving type? Below are some ways you can help.
Keys to becoming a better Pet Loss Friend
-Listen. Listening goes a long way. Often when we are hurting, we just want to be heard and our feelings validated. Mirroring back how we are feeling will help us feel like we have been heard.
-Reach out and ask how we are doing. Even if you don’t know how to respond, or feel uncomfortable, empathy is huge.
-Even if you might not agree that pets are part of the family, be respectful of how we feel. We are not asking you to convert to the other side of the magical animal-human bond club. Treat us as if we had lost a human friend. Because in reality, loss is loss.
“Everyone knows that peace has to begin with oneself, but not many people know how to do it”-Thich Nhat Hanh
It’s a Sign is a compilation of self-improvement articles written by entrepreneurs seeking to bring holistic solutions to everyday problems. Read more articles from this feature.
Claire Chew is a Life Transitions Coach, owner of Luxepets LLC and Modern Pet Loss. Her signature program, from Loss to Possibilities has helped many move forward after loss that is not part of mainstream media~Pet loss, perinatal loss and miscarriages are some topics she shines light and love onto. Her work has been featured in Marie Claire, Martha Stewart Living, InStyle and more. To learn more about helping a friend through pet loss, or find your own way back from grief, contact Claire here for a free 30 minute consult.