The loss of our pets
When our pets die (dogs, cats, rodents, fish, birds etc…) The pain is a physiological reaction and not different from the grieve of losing a loved one.
The bond that we establish with our cat, or dog, possesses all the characteristics of an attachment relationship. Their presence inside the house and in our lives is intense and constant. It’s not just about caring for them. Remember to feed them, to take them out, organize the holidays so that they can come with us or otherwise be well etc…
They don’t judge us, but they accept us exactly as we are. We rarely deal with situations of real conflict with them.
We feel responsible for them. Starting from little things, until you get to the hardest decision to deal with. Animals have a relatively short life compared to the human one. Owning one implies that we will have to confront the possibility of seeing him get sick, or grow old and then die. Sometimes we will have to decide to put an end to their suffering.
In other words, the characteristics of the relationship we build with our pets, the great ability to enter with them in emotional resonance, all this means that when we suffer their loss we feel a deep real suffering. It is not uncommon to meet the typical changes in the process of mourning and depression.
With differences that vary from person to person, here’s what we can experience:
The reactions that will be described are absolutely normal in the process of mourning. Therefore we should not be embarrassed by the fact of suffering the loss of our pet.
- Refusal and denial: Initially it is possible that it is difficult to accept that the animal is truly deceased. You have to deal with coming home and feel the absence. You can constantly rethink about your dead pets. Evoking memories over and over again. You can have pseudoallucinations, that is to think you can see them, hear them, talk to them as if they were still present.
- Sadness and depression: these are natural and even the most widespread consequences of pain. We can also experience depressive symptoms such as changes in sleep, appetite, difficulty in concentrating.
- Anger: It can be addressed to the disease that killed the animal, to himself, to the veterinarian, to the family members who seem not to understand, to God, to ourselves for not having done otherwise… More or less justified, anger is a typical feeling of the protest phase after a mourning, and like the other stages, it has its usefulness in the process of restarting our existence.
- Guilt: It can occur when you feel responsible for the death of your pet, especially if it happened for accidents, poisoning or if we had to make difficult decisions about illness or death itself. We question on what we could have done differently to change the fate, we feel compelled to retrace the events mentally looking for a solution (something we can not really change, because it has already happened).
Only later in time, after months, we arrive at the plea and start to deal with what happened and with our own emotions. We will realize that we have learned to accept that our animal is now gone. We are better able to address our interests also to other, we don’t think more so often about them. Maybe we’re even thinking about adopting another one.
How to deal with loss?
With individual differences, related to the personality of each, the only thing we can and should do is to live the pain to the end.
Any attempt not to feel suffering, or to jump straight to the end is useless or damaging .
More productive instead, let the emotions flow, without feel overwhelmed, without judging because we feel them, maybe with thoughts like: “Basically it was just an animal, I’m exaggerating.”
Mourning is a normal process, and except in cases where it gets complicated, it unfolds spontaneously. It represents the passage from weeping and acute pain, to acceptance and perhaps to smile, looking at a photo of a moment spent with our friend.
The love and affection we have shared will remain forever unchanged. As well as memories of the good times, the races made together, the walks under the water, the moments of tenderness and cuddles lying on the bed. When they saw us crying or getting angry, endless prayers under the table at lunch, stolen cookies secretly. Of the kisses and those deep looks, much more than human…
Charles Darwin once said:
“Animals not only feel affection, but wish to be Loved”
And he was deeply right.