The 4 phases of grief
- Accept the reality of the loss: at first it is normal to feel that everything has been a bad dream and that the loss of our dog is not part of reality.
- Work on the emotions and pain of loss: experiencing emotions of sadness, anguish or pain is common after the loss of our pet. We must accept them as a temporary part of the process and not shelter ourselves forever in pain.
- Adapt to an environment in which the deceased is absent: it is certain that everything in your house will constantly remind you of your pet. Surely, even several weeks after his departure, you will still find his hair on the sofa or your clothes. The imprint of his teeth, after the bites he caused to your TV remote, or the legs of your chair. His bowls, food, his bed, his walking materials, bags for his excrement in all your pockets… and all the toys you spent hours throwing at him while he was having fun and tired… All this, is still there, reminding you of him.
- Emotionally relocate the deceased and continue living : in addition to his toys and pots… the routines, the awakenings, the sound of his breathing and going for a walk without him is too much
The worst feeling: guilt
- Guilt of Feeling Pain : Grieving animals is even more difficult than grieving other human relatives. Among other things because it is not socially accepted. This makes us feel that we have no right to express the pain or how sad we are for the loss.
- Guilt of having assisted his death: what is accepted is euthanasia or assisted death. The goal is for the animal to have a dignified and painless end. But, it is common for there to be a feeling of guilt and for us to question whether we should have waited longer. We believe that we have been selfish in deciding when to “put our dog to sleep” with the help of the veterinarian.
Farewell: 3 steps to facilitate grief
- Make a farewell ritual: death and mourning is something inevitable that we must accept. Making a farewell ritual for your dog can help you close the stage and look at life ahead, in a calmer way.
- Remember funny anecdotes and good times with the deceased animal: although the body dies, the memories remain alive in our hearts. Preserving and reproducing funny and happy memories will relieve us thanks to the evocation of positive emotions.
- Decide what to do with their personal effects: if you are not going to use them, it is best to find a place where they can enjoy their “inheritance”. For example, donate them to a protector, or distribute them among your friends in the park.
The importance of finding support
In the case of grieving for pets, many people do not understand that the emotions and the pain felt are so strong, seeing them as a simple animal.
As we have seen in the section on guilt, this can cause a feeling of misunderstanding.
Having people who have experienced the death of their pet before and who know and value the importance of pets in our lives and day to day, is of great importance.
What to say to a person grieving for a pet?
If you have a close person who has lost their pet and due to the lack of social culture in animal grief, you don’t know what to say to them. Here are 5 tips to not screw up and show that you are there.
- Avoid unfortunate phrases, such as it’s just a dog, or now you adopt another one and that’s it, etc…
- Welcomes and empathizes with the emotions that the person expresses, without limiting or repressing them
- Invite him for a walk, and other leisure activities that are not very demanding and help him have fun and get out of isolation
- Make sure you are covering your basic self-care: eating, drinking, sleeping
- Respect if the person needs to be alone at times
How long does pet grief last?
The duration is different for each person.
Losing a dog is not only a mental state of sadness, it is also a state of physical sadness.
Let’s not forget that petting our dog helps us in the secretion of oxytocin. Oxytocin is that hormone that makes us feel good, happy and calm. And suddenly, goodbye oxytocin.
Sharing moments of social interaction with other dogs can help the person feel better. Thanks to the release of oxytocin.
Logically, some people say they are not ready to adopt another dog after the death of theirs. Helping in a shelter can be a good option to better cope with the phases of grief while feeling useful.