Many pet parents find themselves resisting the need to feel grief after losing a beloved pet. Whether it’s from shame, fear, or the misconception that losing a pet is an insignificant matter. Grief is not easy. Oftentimes, it’s terribly difficult and painful…the loss of a pet can hurt as much as losing a relative.
A study from the Journal of Society & Animals published in 2002 found that the loss of a beloved pet can be as devastating as the loss of a human significant other. Loss, sadness, and grief has a direct effect on one’s mental health. Grief is not linear, it doesn’t have a timeline, and everyone deals with it differently. Because of this, it is crucial that all of us understand different ways to cope and our own healing processes.
The book On Death & Dying by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross explained that there are five stages of grief. The stages of grief identified are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and lastly, acceptance. Since grief is unique to the individual, these stages are not always in order. A person might experience anger before denial, another might go through bargaining after depression, it’s all subjective.
Denial is typically experienced immediately after a loss. In an attempt to protect us from the pain, our brain gives us time and space to adjust. Denial is a defense mechanism that tries to minimize our pain.
Anger stems from all the unanswered questions why this has happened. By trying to understand and control the situation, anger acts as temporary control for us.
Bargaining gives us false hope in our moments of vulnerability. Motivated by the belief that we could’ve done something better, or we should’ve spent more time with them. In situations where we have no control over, we tend to bargain to try and understand, or control the situation.
Depression usually is the longest stage for many. After losing a beloved pet, the place they have in our hearts can feel like an empty void. For some pet parents, no matter how long it has been, they will always hold a small amount of sadness in their hearts for their pets who’ve crossed the rainbow bridge.
Acceptance is the last stage of grief. After allowing ourselves to feel and process each emotion fully, we can start moving forward with other positive coping mechanisms. Accepting the loss does not mean forgetting all the beautiful memories. Grieving is not a linear process, even after acceptance, we might find ourselves in earlier stages of grief. After this stage, looking for a new companion is not something we should feel guilty of.
It’s never easy losing someone we love dearly, and it’s important we recognise that each individual deals with loss differently. MyFriend wants to support everyone who has lost their beloved pets. Feeling your emotions and allowing yourself to embrace them is a crucial part of the healing journey. Don’t forget that your mental health should always be a priority.
The process of moving on after losing a friend doesn’t mean forgetting them. It only means we are storing their memories in a place of bittersweet longing. Creating a memorial keepsake like a framed photo, toys with paw prints, or other items that can help us reminisce to the happy times we shared with our friends.
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