According to the National Pet Owner Survey conducted between 2017 and 2018, over 80 million households in America own a pet. And yet, the close bond that many of us share with our pets as well as the detrimental effects that their death can have on our mental well-being are societally disregarded. But why do we connect so deeply with our pets, and how is it that we often mourn the loss of an animal companion more intensely than the loss of a human?
Why we connect deeply with pets
While animals are legally considered to be property, most people view their pets as important members of their family. Whether we are single pet parents or live together in a big family household, research has shown that we regard our pets as children. However, there is a significant difference between our fur babies and actual human children. While both show us love and affection, human children eventually grow into independent adults whose love is not always readily available to their parents. Pets, however, retain their child-like status for their entire life and constantly supply us with what seems like unconditional affection. It, therefore, is no wonder that our pets become an important source of validation and comfort for us when we struggle against life’s adversities.
The unique bond between pets and humans
As the bond we share with them is one of a kind, it is also no wonder that the death of our pets can leave us with an emptiness that no other human or animal can fill. Despite the dismissiveness that grieving pet parents often experience from other people, the death of our animal companions can affect us in many unforeseen ways that have even been scientifically recorded. The symptoms of pet loss grief not only include emotional and physical pain, social withdrawal as well as ruminations over the loss but can also culminate in severe depression or complicated grief. All of these symptoms are a reaction to the profound loss of a friend who provided you with an abundance of care and support when you needed them the most – your pet loss grief is not weird, it is a natural response to such a loss.
Navigating pet loss grief
As pet loss grief can be difficult to navigate, it is important to look after yourself well following the bereavement of a pet. Wolfie’s Wish Pet Loss Grieving Cards were specifically designed to support you through this trying time and are a wonderful tool to celebrate the life of your furry companion. Whenever you feel overwhelmed by grief, draw a card and let the love you feel for your pet inspire you to do the rest – light a candle for your beloved, draw a picture of them, create a social media account and share all your happy memories. Pet loss grief can be overpowering and if you feel like the pain is increasing, there is no shame in reaching out to other pet grievers or a pet loss grief counselor.
Your pet loss grief is valid and you are never alone in grieving your pet.