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Pet Bereavement

Updated: July 23, 2022

The loss of a pet is so much more than these words.  Our furry friends are considered a part of the family.  We love them, appreciate their presence, and mourn and miss them when they leave us.  Others might find this strange.  But you don’t have to suffer alone.

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What Is Pet Bereavement?

The loss of a non-human animal is no less painful for those who live in cross-species families.  Pets are more than pets, they are companion, friend, and family, we feel an intense connection to them, sometimes, more than we might to other humans.  We become accustomed to their presence in our lives, our routines are shaped around them, and we feel comforted by them.  We take care of them, and feel supported by them, because they take care of us.  But, when the worst happens, we are devastated by the loss.

 

It is perhaps even more impactful because we spend so much time with them, and therefore, feel the void they leave so heavily.  This is bereavement, and it is no less painful when we lose a non-human loved one.  Not everyone can understand the intensity of this kind of loss, they may think it strange that you feel deep loneliness, but this does not mean your feelings are not valid.  The grief you feel when losing a beloved pet should be expected, and honoured.  Your pain reflects your love for them, and should not be hidden in shame.  Nor should you struggle alone.  Help is available.

What Are The Symptoms?

Anger

One stage of grief is anger.  During this time, individuals will experience anger about their loss, wondering why it happened to them, they may lash out at inanimate objects, strangers, people they know, and feel angry at life itself.

Appetite Changes

Grief can affect appetite in different ways for different people, depending on how they relate to food emotionally.  Some people may lose all interest in food and not experience hunger, or feel too preoccupied by their grief, while others may eat more due to the stress they feel.  

Bargaining

An example of bargaining is when we ask a higher power to bring back our loved one in exchange for something.  Bereavement brings about feelings of helplessness.  Bargaining is an attempt at defending ourselves from the threat of loss as we struggle to reconcile what has happened, and accept the limits of our control in the situation.

Crying & Feeling Overwhelmed

Grief can hit people very fast and hard, they may experience lots of crying which makes them feel as if they can’t cope.  This can lead to the feeling of overwhelm, whereby individuals worry they will never be able to live with how they feel.

Denial

Although the stages of grief are thought not to be chronological and linear, denial is often one of the first stages experienced.  When people are in denial, they attempt to minimize the overwhelming and all encompassing experience of loss, to survive the emotional pain.

Guilt

It is quite normal to experience guilt when someone dies.  This can happen for many reasons, for example, you may wish you had done or said things differently when the loved one was alive, possibly believing you could have prevented their death, or feel guilty because you believe you should not have outlived your loved one (for example, when losing a child).

Inability To Concentrate

People can feel consumed with thoughts and feelings of loss, sadness, grief, and loneliness.  This focus on bereavement means the brain is overloaded and unable to function as normal.  This can result in issues with cognition, memory, and concentration.

Numbness

Some people can experience an emotional numbness due to ‘inhibited grief’.  This is when emotions are suppressed, possibly to protect oneself.  Sometimes people can be (mis)judged when they grieve in this way because it does not ‘look’ like grief ‘should’.

Sadness & Depression

One of the most common stages of grief is depression.  It is also one of the most difficult and prolonged stages of the process of grieving.

Shock

The loss of someone or something can feel shocking due to the finality of it.  And because we often don’t think about life without them.  Even if we do think about it (for example, in anticipatory grief), the reality can be very different from what was expected.

Sleep Problems

Sleep becomes problematic when we experience grief.  You may find it difficult to fall asleep easily, or you might wake up throughout the night, or wake up early in the morning.  You may even wish to sleep more because this is the only time you feel you can rest from your grief.

Withdrawal & Isolation

When people feel intense grief because of the loss of a cherished loved one, they might need space and time for themselves to process their feelings and heal.  But, they may also wish to avoid life and people because they do not feel understood.

What Causes Bereavement?

Bereavement is how we respond to loss.  How our loved one left can also impact the intensity of the grief we feel.  For example, if they were in pain, and if we had to make the decision to euthanise them.

How close we were to the lost one also impacts the grieving process and this is why the loss of a pet can make grief so difficult.  It bring about intense feelings of shock, denial, sadness and grief as we attempt to cope without our close loved one.

If we know that our beloved pet is suffering with a terminal illness, we may experience anticipatory grief first.  Even though they are still alive, we can feel grief because of their suffering and the knowledge that they are dying.  This can bring about sadness and anger as one prepares for the loss.

Even if we are aware that our beloved pet will die, we still feel deep sadness as we attempt to adjust to life and a new routine or lack of routine.  The home can feel very different and empty without the presence of our beloved pet and this emptiness colours our experience of life.

How Phinity Therapy Can Help

We have experience with providing pet grief counselling, otherwise known as bereavement therapy.  We aim to support you with learning how to cope with your loss, as we help you explore the circumstances surrounding your loss, how you feel about it, and how you can adjust to your new reality.

Depending on how you are impacted by your grief, we can suggest a number of ways of working and make recommendations based on your needs.  Therapies we may recommend include person centred therapy (PCT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), grief-specific cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy, or complicated grief treatment (CGT), to name just a few options.

What Causes Bereavement?How Phinity Therapy Can Help

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