Sunday, February 5, 2012

Your Loss is Just As Real When You Lose A Pet

Editor's Note:  This post was actually written and posted in my other blog which I have been on hiatus from since October.  It is a support blog for those who are dealing with Grief and Bereavement.   I started it because it was something I always wanted to do and it was a way I thought to help others and myself.   I lost my father in May 2011. In October, it became too difficult to write it. I will get back to it. This post is one on the legitimacy of dealing with the loss of a pet. I have been seeing many people lose their pets recently and thought this was a good one to share here. I have dealt with a lot of loss in my own life and have lots of education and professional experience with death and loss too. I hope some insights I've learned are helpful to you. Please share this post if you know someone who is dealing with the loss of his or her furry companion. Thanks.

To start, I will say that there will be more than one post on this.  Dealing with the loss of a pet can actually be more difficult that dealing with the loss of a human being loved one.

The beauty of being in a relationship with a companion animal is the pure and unconditional love that is shared between a person and their pet. We can be ourselves without fear of being judged!  There generally isn't risk in showing our emotions with this loving creature. This reminds me of the saying that goes something to the effect of, "Try to be the person that your dog already thinks you are". Our pets treat us as if we can do no wrong.

One of the major down sides of dealing with the death of one of these extremely loving and pure creatures, other than feeling the grief, is that most of the world won't take your loss as seriously as they would if you lost a human being.  My father used to talk about how when our dog, Penny, had passed away that it saddened him as if the dog was one of his own children. It was the first time I ever saw him cry. I think it may have been safer in society to cry over the dog.  In more recent years, I used to feel insulted that my father would compare his love for the dog to his love for us, his children.   As I thought about it though, I can understand how this dog became such an important part of his life.

I used to work with a woman, who took the day off when one of her dogs of many years passed away. She didn't take days off from work without notice, but she did this particular day. The boss treated her as if she was just trying to get a day off and snubbed the feelings publicly of this person upon her return to work. My co-worker confided to me that she just wouldn't have been in any shape to work.  I personally think she did the right thing.

I have several house rabbit companions. When I have lost them to death, I usually am distraught. The relationships I have developed with them are real. They are not fake. We interact, we play, tease each other lovingly, comfort each other, cuddle, show disapproval with some things (not getting their way for example), among other things. They care for us. We care for them. When they are gone, it is a major loss.

The working world and other people in the world might not always understand. I have had people tease me asking me if they can have the rabbit for dinner after it's dead. I don't think they are trying to be cruel, even though it hurts at that point, they just don't understand. If the person is someone who you feel is insensitive much of the time in other situations, I would just not discuss it with them.  If the person who says it is otherwise not a negative or insensitive person, they probably just don't understand. I suggest you politely say that you are feeling deep grief and loss, even if they don't understand why, perhaps they will respect your pain and needs for sensitivity to your feelings.

Your feelings are real and you should follow through with the grieving process with your pet as much as you should with the loss of a human loved one. Nurture yourself and feel everything. Validate your feelings. They are real and are to be taken seriously. The rest of the world might not understand, but there are a lot of people who will. Just be careful to be selective whom you share with.  Love yourself and take care of yourself.  It's important.

May you find peace,
Mary Ellen

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