Have you, or do you know someone who has lost a beloved pet?
This is what I call ‘grief in spades’ because many people do not understand the profound effect this can have on many pet owners and a typical response is – ‘it’s only a pet – get another one!’.
If a family member of close friend passes away, everyone rallies around and understands that the grieving process takes as long as it takes. If a person is still grieving a pet months later, friends and family may be mystified and do not understand why that person does not move on.
There are many ways to lose a pet – sometimes a pet disappears and there is a huge amount of anguish as everyone searches and covers all possibilities. A pet may have a long illness and the family has difficult decisions to make, or the pet may have died in the family’s absence. A pet may die very young which seems particularly cruel – either through a tragic accident or unexpected illness.
What effect do all these different scenarios have on the family? There is undoubtedly a knock on effect depending on the age of the children and how long the pet has been part of that family.
For some children, the pet has been with them ‘forever’ – their whole lives and the loss of their pet is their first experience of death and must be dealt with appropriately. Older children may hide their feelings because it is not ‘cool’ to appear affected by the death of a pet. For many adults, their pet may have been with them through competitions, marriage, births and family life. A horse, for example, may have been ridden by several generations. For others, their pet is their family and fills their lives with sharing and love.
There is so much misunderstanding about grief generally and pet loss in particular and I hope that the e book I have written will help individuals, families, children and friends. Grieving a pet is a process and it is a process during which one has to find courage and strength.
How to do this? Not an easy thing to accomplish if you have to carry on with life, look after family and deal with the family feelings when you are feeling vulnerable yourself. Everyone needs help through the grief process - and it is a process - so that they can heal in the healthiest way possible. There are relaxation, breathing and visualisation and other techniques you can apply when dealing with grief, especially in the early days when the world seems to be turning upside down.
Once learned, these techniques can be used to help a friend or to help children of all ages to understand the emotions around loss. It is my mission to create a greater understanding of the bond we share with animals; why it hurts so much when we lose them and how we can cope on a daily basis using gentle, proven techniques that will last a life time and may also help us to find courage in other life situations.
By Denise Fiennes Counsellor
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