Monday, May 16, 2022

Pet Loss: Questions from A College Student

The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.  ~ Thomas Berger

A reader writes: I am a college student who attended one of your in-person pet loss support groups, and I was glad to be there to share feelings with other animal lovers. I grieved over the death of my third dog seven years ago, and I still know how sad I was when I lost him. I am writing a research paper on pet loss for one of my classes, and I’m hoping you’d be willing to provide more information on some questions I’d like to ask you.

My response: In an effort to answer all your questions as thoroughly as I can, I’m pointing you to some articles I’ve written that I hope will give you the information you‘re seeking.

Question: When I lost my dog, I mourned over his death, and could not stop crying. However, I could eat, sleep, and work, and still be able to physically function to perform my duties. Therefore, I did not think that I had any mental signs of pet loss. What are some clear signs about the mental aspects associated with pet loss?

Answer: Since everyone grieves differently, not everyone will experience the loss of an animal companion in the same way. See, for example:

Losing A Cherished Pet: Common Myths and Realities

Why Does Pet Loss Hurt So Much? 

Coping with Sorrow in Grief

Question: Which generation do you think is more susceptible to mourning the loss of their pets; adults or children? How about gender, men or women?

Answer: I don't think any generation or gender is more or less susceptible to the pain of losing a beloved animal companion, since so many factors are involved. See:

Grief: Understanding The Process

How We Mourn: Understanding Our Differences

Children Grieve Too, But Not The Same As Adults

Explaining Pet Loss to Children: Some Do's and Don'ts

Question: Whenever I remember the day of my dog’s death, I still cry. I wonder whether he was happy with me, and I cannot find the answer about it. What is the most effective way to deal with these kinds of emotions? Should people see a therapist or doctor to resolve these feelings?

Answer: There are some questions in life that simply cannot be answered. If you find yourself struggling with such questions, I think it's always wise to seek the guidance and support of someone you trust, who will listen without judgment or reproach ~ whether that's a friend, relative, teacher, a pastor or a qualified professional. See:

Seeing a Specialist in Grief Counseling: Does It Matter?

Finding Support for Pet Loss

Pet Loss and Animal Communication: Suggested Resources

Memorializing Pets We Have Lost

Tips on Coping with Anniversary Reactions in Grief

Question: How do you think veterinarians should deal with and support pet guardians about pet grief on a regular basis?

Answer: By staying informed about normal grief and what bereavement support systems are available in their communities so they can refer their clients to them. Some enlightened veterinarianss have specialists on their staffs or grief counselors available on an "on call" basis to come in and help with grieving clients as needed ~ such as when euthanasia is performed. 

Question: I grew up with dogs since I was child, then they were like my brothers and sisters, best friends, or children, so I do not think I’ll be able to live without dogs. However, there are people who do not think how important companion animals are. I sometimes have to face them. What are your suggestions on how to deal with those who do not care about companion animals as much as I do?

Answer: You can educate them ~ for example, by giving them a copy of my article, Helping Another with Pet Loss. If they are not "animal people" and are not willing to respect your love of animals, you can decide to go elsewhere to obtain the support you need and to develop the sort of relationships you want. When you need support and understanding regarding your love of animals, or empathy for your feelings, don't look for it among people who will not respect and understand your values and beliefs.

I hope this information proves helpful to you, my friend, and I wish you all the best with your paper. 

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here

© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH

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