If you’ve ever lost a pet you know how painful it can be. Were you shocked at how intense your grief was? Were you hesitant to talk about your sadness? That’s common.
Pet loss hurts like any other loss, but people grieving pet loss don’t normally talk about their feelings because they are afraid of being judged. When they do talk about what’s going on they are usually met with intellectual statements that minimize their feelings. This reinforces their fear that pet loss is not as significant as a human death, divorce or other grief experiences. Of course that isn’t true. All grief is experienced at 100%. Grief is grief no matter what the cause.
Here are 3 of the most common statements grievers hear after losing a pet and why they aren’t helpful.
At least you can get another pet
Suggesting grievers replace their loss is so common that most people never stop to think about what they’re saying. It suggests grievers can simply get another pet and they’ll no longer be sad. If someone’s grandpa died would anyone suggest they get a new grandpa? Of course not. It’s impossible to replace a significant emotional relationship, whether with a human or a pet.
Sometimes when grievers rush into getting a new pet, they notice they don’t love the new one with the same intensity as the one that died. Each pet has a different personality and relationship with their owner, so a pet can never be replaced. Until they get complete with the pet that died it’s hard to fully love the new one.
He was only a dog
Anyone who knows and loves their pets knows pets are companions and best friends. They love you when you’re having a good day and they love you when you’re having a bad day. The word “only” minimizes the loss, which can alienate grievers. Then they isolate or pretend to be okay when in reality their hearts are broken.
Your pet is in a better place
Pet owners usually hear this statement after making the difficult decision to put their pets to sleep. It might be intellectually true that their pet is no longer in pain, so is in a better place. But guess what? The pet owner isn’t in a better place. He or she is devastated. Suggesting their pet is in a better place is like saying since he is in a better place the owner shouldn’t feel sad. It’s impossible not to be sad even if the owner made the correct decision to put their pet to sleep.
Another variation is when pet owners have to surrender their pets for adoption. They’ll hear things like, “he’s with an owner who can give him what you couldn’t”.
That intellectual truth doesn’t help a griever feel better.
People who grieve pet loss are often shocked at the intensity of their feelings. If someone you know is grieving a pet there is nothing wrong with them. Grief is normal and natural. Instead of intellectualizing the situation try listening with an open heart.
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