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Grieving a pet is still grieving

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Isabella Santoro

Staff Writer

Recently, I lost my nine year old chocolate lab Jade, and three months ago, I lost my cat Luna. Grieving both the losses of my beloved animals was and still is a difficult process and is never easy, especially when it is unexpected. Whether or not it’s expected or unexpected, losing a pet can change your life in a lot of ways, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Many people rely on their pets for emotional security and often form deeper connections with their pets than with other humans in their life. Usually, they form deeper connections with their pets because of distrust in other human beings, trauma from past relationships and because animals can be a kind of therapy. This might be why we see so many pet therapy and service dogs around. Animals can greatly help humans heal from physical or emotional trauma, can boost their happiness, etc. A study showed that around 70 percent of therapy dogs had an impact on patients admitted to a hospital or who were waiting for a bed in a hospital. They then brought in therapy dogs to visit the patients and patients reported experiencing less pain, anxiety and depression. Keeping all of this in mind, it makes sense that grieving a pet is just as hard as grieving a human being.

Dogs may not be able to speak to you or communicate with you like a human being can, but they are just as important in a person’s life. Oftentimes, adults consider pets their children and care for them just the way they would a child. Children who grow up with pets often consider them like siblings and truly part of the family. Without them there, there is an absence in the home. Dogs, cats and other pets are so much more than just pets. They offer an unconditional kind of love that sometimes the people in your life can’t. This is why it is so extremely hard to process the grief that you may feel after losing a pet and trying to figure out why it sometimes may hit harder than losing a person.

Photo by Isabella Santoro

Many may consider grieving a pet not as noteworthy or important as losing a person. This is where they’d be wrong. Grieving a pet, while not exactly like grieving a person, can be quite similar. The feelings and emotions of losing something or someone that you love is never easy and can feel the same whether you lose a person or a pet. Something people feel very often when letting a pet go is guilt. If you’ve ever had to put your pet down via euthanasia, that is a very hard process to go through and the decision to do so is also very difficult. When dealing with this particular way of losing a pet, it has been shown that some pet owners feel guilt and are not sure that they are making the right decision. Pet euthanasia is known as the merciful and more painless death for a beloved pet and while it is difficult to go through, it may be the best option. Regardless, it is not ever easy to see a beloved pet suffering, much the way it is difficult to watch a human suffer. These feelings of guilt may be overpowering and some people may not be able to handle that. This goes along with the grief. This is also why the loss of a pet is a bit different than the loss of a person.

Is this grief something you won’t ever be able to overcome? No. Losing a pet may not be something you ever forget or feel better about after years, but it is something you can live with. If you’ve recently lost a pet like me, it might be a good idea to take a day to yourself to process your grief. After I lose a pet, I usually take a day off of school or work to process what I am feeling. In this time, find something that grounds you and something that you find relaxing or enjoyable. Everyone processes losing a loved one and grief very differently, so it is important to remember that how you are feeling is very valid. Some people feel more outwardly emotional and some people may not. However you are feeling and processing your grief is valid and no one should take away your experience. If distracting yourself helps, do that, but remember that it is okay to reach out to someone you love or someone who understands what you are going through. Just because you did not lose a person does not mean that you are not allowed to grieve.

If you feel the need to speak to someone, counseling services are available on campus at 401-456-8094.


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