The loss of a pet can bring as much grief as the loss of some human friends and family members.
This makes sense when you consider the role our animal companions play
in our everyday lives. You cared for your pet’s every need and, because
they could not speak, you learned to communicate in other ways. Such
caring builds intimacy similar to that found between a parent and their
infant; love without conflict, jealousy, or any of the other
complications found in most relationships. So when a pet dies, the depth
of your grief reflects your loss of a special relationship.
“When we lose a pet, we lose a relationship unlike any other,” says Ken
Dolan-Del Vecchio (www.greengateleadership.com), a family therapist and
author of The Pet Loss Companion: Healing Advice From Family Therapists
Who Lead Pet Loss Groups.
“Many of us love our pets the way we love our children. But in the
immediate aftermath of this unique loss, too often family members and
friends say things like, ‘Just get another one.’ Instead of devaluing
your grief over the loss of this important relationship, as others may
advise, embrace your sorrow. Your grief is important, for it will lead
you to healing and teach you important things about what matters most in
Dolan-Del Vecchio offers these tips for those grieving the loss of a pet:
• Share your grief with empathetic friends. Spend
time with people who understand your closeness with your pet. Even some
friends may be insensitive, so be careful to avoid “get over it” types
of people. “Unfortunately, many people see animals as if they were
non-living objects,” Dolan-Del Vecchio says.
• Attend a pet loss support group. Pet loss groups
provide a concentrated dose of social support. Meeting with others who
also grieve and share similar emotions can boost one’s healing greatly.
• Keep moving. Exercise is a healer. It boosts feelings of well-being and calm, improves sleep and brightens your mood.
• Be creative. Whether you lean toward writing,
scrapbooking, ceramics, photography or making collages, creative
projects may contribute to healing.
• Spend time in nature. Nothing quiets the mind and
soul like a stroll through a park, nature preserve, or by the seashore.
“The natural world brings special benefits when your heart has been torn
by grief,” Dolan-Del Vecchio says. “The sights, sounds, and smells of
nature connect us to eternal, circular stories of life and death in ways
that go beyond our usual thoughts and feelings, and this experience
brings solace to many people.”
“It’s important to care for yourself when you’re grieving your pet,”
Dolan-Del Vecchio says. “This requires some planning and acts of will,
as grief can diminish energy and motivation. You can lessen your
distress through self-care. Above all else, be gentle with yourself.”
About Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio
Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio (www.greengateleadership.com) is an author,
speaker, family therapist, and leadership and life skills consultant.
His books include Simple Habits of Exceptional (But Not Perfect)
Parents, The Pet Loss Companion: Healing Advice From Family Therapists
Who Lead Pet Loss Groups, and Making Love: Playing Power: Men, Women,
and the Rewards of Intimate Justice. Ken founded GreenGate Leadership®
after retiring from his role as Vice President, Health and Wellness, at
Prudential, where he was responsible for behavioral health services for
the company’s 20,000 U.S. employees.