Our society treats a fellow human passing away with immense seriousness, as is only right. However, we don’t always take the same care and attention when it comes to our pets. Indeed, there is too often a sense that the passing of a beloved furry, feathered, or scaled companion is somehow less painful than a human one, and those who grieve are to be ridiculed.
Yet this doesn’t reflect the true place animals hold in our lives. They are in many ways as much members of our families as those of our own species. As such, when they pass away it can be equally if not more traumatic. Grief plays an important role in overcoming the trauma of this.
We’re going to take a closer look at why grieving for your pet is vital, and how you can approach it.
It’s Mentally Healthy
The first thing to understand is that grieving is essential for your mental wellbeing. There is a tendency for people to push down their grief, particularly in respect of their pets, as they view it as something disruptive to their lives. However, failing to address the feelings involved with a death — and a close family pet is a significant loss — can derail you down the line.
The problem with unaddressed mourning is that it tends to be cyclical. It doesn’t go away because you choose to ignore it. It lingers in the background, and can rise to the surface in unexpected and destructive ways. You may find yourself disproportionately angry, experiencing prolonged numbness, even going through low-grade depression. Indeed, grief can be wrapped up in other issues following a loss, particularly anxiety about loneliness, and guilt in the case of a long illness. Without attending to these concerns and feelings, they just keep perpetuating, potentially getting worse the longer you leave them.
As such, you must take the time to grieve fully. This doesn’t mean you need to drop everything in your life and disappear into mourning. But make time to explore your feelings.
It Aids Dialogue
After the death of a pet, it is common for a sense of quiet to fall over the home. This is fine, for a while, but you shouldn’t allow this to drag on too long. By not talking about what is essentially a death in the family, the stress and trauma of the situation can fester. The grieving process can be an important act in opening up the kind of dialogue that can help release the pressure on everyone involved.
If you have younger children, in particular, they may have a lot of questions about what is happening and why. Seeing you grieve while also being open in talking about your feelings can be a vital tool in showing them that death is not something to be feared, and that there are processes that go along with it. Be honest with them in a gentle, age-appropriate way. Invite their questions, encourage their curiosity. Indeed, this can be a tool that can keep you talking about the situation and help your own grieving process.
It Helps You Gain Closure
Perhaps the most important reason to grieve is that it helps you to move forward. People often mistake this as a way to forget about their pets and just carry on with their lives. This can understandably see some people reluctant to seek closure. But that’s not what it’s really about.
Rather, it’s more about appreciating how they affected — and continue to affect — you, and understanding that your ability to experience the rest of your life has been made all the better by their having been a part of it. There are certainly tools to help this process. Many people find that using pet urns to store ashes can be a route toward both finalizing this period of their life and also giving a focus for when they want to revisit their memories. This can be coupled with a service that acknowledges the loss, but also celebrates your pet’s life. Small acts like this aren’t about consigning your pet to the past, but allowing you to move forward in a healthy way.
The death of a pet will always be difficult. However, grief shouldn’t be something to avoid, but rather a tool to help you navigate the tough times ahead. Where possible, don’t face the situation alone. Gather with your loved ones and work together to not avoid the pain, but move through it.