Pet loss is common to any household. Pet grief has been given attention in the past few years. A number of books, support groups, hotlines, and online forums are now available to share your experiences of sorrows and grief. Or one can be the listener to these folks who lost their pets, having similar stories that they can relate to them.
Why we feel so much pain
One may ask the question why they grieve deeply on losing a pet than losing a relative or friend? Truth is that the "unconditional love" you received from your pet was far different than the complicated love relationships with other human beings. Your pet definitely adores you since you take care of them and they gave you more in return. Your pet was always there for you, never criticized you, never hurt your feelings, never held grudges, and always forgave you, no matter what happened between you. As a matter of fact, there is no single soul in your life that have ever given you this unselfish love of a pet.
With the unconditional love that your pet gave you, your pet expected simple things in return such as proper food, a good belly rub or ear-scratching, a walk on the park, etc. A pet can be the only source of pure,"unconditional love" that you will ever know in your entire life. They know how to win your heart for you to trust them and gives you that comfort you never got from anyone else on a daily basis. You also receive tactile comfort from a pet; touching, stroking, rubbing their hair. You might even kiss or hug them and confide your deepest thoughts to them, knowing they will never betray your secrets. Your pet has probably seen you naked, in all your glory, and he never told anyone about your big belly and your other bodily imperfections. The pure joy and excitement your pet expressed to you when you come home after work is not expressed all the time by your family members since they also live in their own world. But your pet lives only for you as they share your world and your deepest sentiments in life when you hugged them in your troubled moments. When you look at them, they will show their sweet little eyes as if saying everything will be alright no matter what you feel underneath. Such unconditional love nurtured with time resulted in a very strong emotional attachment. That is why when you lost your pet, that comforting presence is sorely missed. There is no point of comparison between the loss of a pet and the death of another human being in your life.
What experts say
Diane Pomerance, a Dallas-based author, lost her favorite dog seven years ago, found herself grieving more deeply for her dog than her own father. She stated, "I was crying all the time. I had a very short fuse. I couldn't concentrate or focus on work". As time passed by, Pomerance understood her grief. She was later certified as a grief recovery specialist by the Sherman Oaks, California based Grief Recovery Institute. She started a support group for grieving pet owners at the SPCA of Texas in Dallas, and wrote a book on losing a pet. There are a multitude of reasons why someone may grieve very deeply for the loss of a pet.
Pomerance further stated, "These animals offer us unconditional love! They don't betray us like other people. They don't have an agenda. They are always forgiving and happy to see us. And they're with us 24/7. When we're home we can let down our guard with them."
Pomerance's support group helped pet owners the freedom to grieve with participants coming from all walks of life. She recalled a retired doctor attended their meeting with photos of a Dalmatian he had lost 25 years earlier. He also brought an urn containing the dog's ashes. Pomerance says, "He curled up and cried like a baby."
Wallace Sife, a retired psychologist and author of "The Loss of a Pet" stated, "The bonds with our beloved pets are in many ways stronger, purer, and far more intimate than with most others of our species. We feel loved and secure in sharing our secret souls with them. How often can you do this safely, even with someone who is very close to you?"
Grieving is intensely personal. Generally, it's important to have freedom of expression with your emotions and memories. Sife suggested to keep a log of your thoughts and feelings. Online chat rooms and message boards, and offline support groups and hotlines linked to humane societies, are also sources of support.
Sife suggests writing a letter to yourself if you are one of those experiencing severe grief, taking on your pet's persona. Finally she said, "Observe how you are reacting to the loss, and ask yourself if your pet would want you to continue this way. We all know pets would want the best for us, because that's what love is about."
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