Exactly why We Need to Take Pet Loss Seriously
Doug’s amateur soccer team had just lost their playoff game and he needed a pick-me-up. So he determined to stop by the local animal shelter on his way home. Having been by no means looking to adopt an animal but puppies always put a laugh on his face.
“Rookie mistake, ” he explained in our psychotherapy session. “You set foot in one of these places and no way you’re not leaving with a puppy. ” Delia, the pup in question, was obviously a five-month-old mutt. “I had the woman for seventeen years, ” Doug said, wiping tears from his eyes, “Almost my entire adult life. I knew it would be rough when she died but I experienced no idea… I was an overall total wreck.
I couldn’t get any work done. In addition to worst of, I was too embarrassed regarding it to tell anyone, even my old soccer teammates who loved Delia. I invested days at work sobbing in private and muttering ‘allergies’ whenever someone glanced inside my puffy eyes.
Losing a beloved pet is often a psychologically devastating experience. Yet, as a society, we do not recognize how agonizing pet loss can be and how much it can impair our emotional and physical health. Associated with acute grief after the loss of a pet can last from one to 2 months with symptoms of grief persisting up to a full year (on average).
The New England Journal of Medicine recently reported that a female whose dog died experienced Broken Heart Syndrome–a condition in which a homeowner’s reply to grief and heartbreak is so severe, they exhibit symptoms that imitate a heart attack, including elevated hormone levels that can be thirty times greater than normal.
Although grief over the loss of a cherished pet may be as powerful and even as long as when a significant person in our life dies, our procedure for grieving is quite different. Because pet loss is voiceless, many of the societal mechanisms of social and community support are missing when a cherished family pet dies. Few of us ask our employers for time off to cry a beloved cat or dog as we concern doing so would fresh paint us as overly expressive, short of maturity or emotionally weak. And few companies would grant such demands were we to make them.
Correctly found that social support is a crucial ingredient in coping with the grief of all types. Thus, our company is not only robbed of crucial support systems when our dog dies, but our own perceptions of our mental responses are likely to add yet another layer of emotional distress. We may feel embarrassed and even ashamed about the intensity of the heartbreak we feel and consequently, be reluctant to disclose our distress to our loved ones. We might even wonder what exactly is incorrect with us and question why we are responding in such “disproportional” ways to losing.
Feeling powerful suffering that is then layered with shame about these feelings not only makes pet loss a bigger risk to our emotional health than it would be otherwise, it complicates the process of recovery by which makes it more lengthy and complex than it should be.
Further, given our societal attitude that creates responses such as “It’s just an animal” and “You can proper another one” we are prone to overlook the variety of ways our lives are impacted by pet reduction (both real, practical and psychological), which can blind us to steps we need to take in order to recover. Shedding a pet can leave significant voids in our life that individuals need to fill: It may change our daily routines, creating ripple effects that go significantly beyond the loss of the actual animal.
For example, whether they are trained to or not, all pets function as remedy animals to some level. Cats, dogs, horses and other cherished pets provide companionship, they reduce isolation and depression and they can ease anxiety. Thus once we lose them we actually lose a significant and even essential source of support and comfort.
Patient for our pet also lets us develop workouts and tasks around which we often craft our days. We get exercise by walking our dog and we socialize with other dog owners at the dog runs/parks/beaches. When our dog dies we might experience a significant drop in everyday social interaction and feel left out of the unofficial community of dog owners to which we belonged.
We awake early every day to give food to our cat (or we have been woken by them whenever we forget) but we get much more done because of it. Without our kitty, we might experience a real drop in output. Or we spend hours over the weekend out there of the location so we can ride our equine, and find ourselves heading stir crazy when our horse is no lengthier around. Losing a dog thus disrupts established routines that provide us with structure, support our mental well-being and give our actions meaning. This is why, in addition to emotional pain, we feel aimless and lost in the days and weeks after our pet dies.
Lastly, we often consider ourselves parents to the pets and are even known as such in our communities. Everybody who owns a dog knows that neighbors on the street are much more likely to know our dog’s name than they are to know ours. When our dog dies we can become invisible and lose a meaningful aspect of our identity. We post images and videos of our animals on social media and are followed for that reason. Losing a pet make a difference many aspects of our own identities.
Recovering from pet loss, as with all types of grief, requires all of us to recognize these changes and find ways to address them. We need to seek social support from people we know will understand and sympathize with our emotional pain and not judge us for it.