4 Feeling Stages of Grief In The Loss Of A Pet
When we lose a pet, friend, parent, child, neighbor or anyone who has brought meaning to our lives, we go through many stages of feelings. Our heart is sore and our emotions are raw. We feel vulnerable and sensitive to what is said and even more so to what isn’t said about our loss. We are saddened that we won’t have their physical association again in this plane of existence. In other words, we are grieving.
There are four distinct feelings or emotional stages in most grieving processes.
1. Fear. We fear what we will do without our pet. We fear coming home to not be greeted by the unconditional love that has greeted us at the door for many years. Along with fear, many will experience the feeling of dread. This is the deep anticipation of an event or experience. You may enjoy my latest book on resiliency at www.bouncebackperson.com
2. Guilt. This feeling is connected with fear and dread, because we feel that perhaps we did not do all that was in our power to protect our pet. Adults can usually short-circuit this guilt by stepping out of the blame and shame mode, with acknowledging that death of their pet has occurred and it is a reality. Children sometimes cling to guilt longer by thinking “if only………”
3. Rage. This feeling stage of grief often comes with a sense of helplessness. In this stage many will silently, or openly, blame others for what has happened. Perhaps anger will be towards a workplace that refuses to acknowledge the deep attachment you had with your pet.
4. Sadness. This feeling stage in the loss of a pet is the first step in the beginning of self-acceptance. This stage can be where we get out of our own way and back to the community of friends and family. We learn to let it go and let it be.
Life and death can be mysterious and have many layers of emotions around them. Hidden issues from other experiences may come forth when the heart is raw and open, Grief work is individual and progresses at the pace only you are comfortable with.
Grieve More For Pet Than Parents
For many people who lose their pets to death, the grief is deeper than it was for the death of a relative or friend. The pet represents complete and unconditional love, unlike many human relationships which carry hidden agendas and old resentments.
The feelings are real and cause emotional, physical and spiritual pain. We must change the way we see ourselves and that can often be traumatic. Redefining who we are in our new roles may take time and some soul searching.
Rational Minds vs. Real Feelings
We know, in our rational mind, that pets live relatively short lives. I have even heard friends and family say, “Well, I am not going to love another pet so much. It just hurts too much when they die.” That is such a great idea for the head. Too bad, our hearts aren’t listening.
All too soon, we find our pets becoming more and more important. Our pets, even though we think of them as human, live relatively short lives. We need to recognize that in our lifetime we will have the privilege of being owned by many pets.
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It sometimes feels disloyal to stop remembering as if by thinking of your pet constantly could in some miraculous way, bring them back. We feel, erroneously, that if we “hold on” to the pain forever, we will never forget.
Closing the chapter on a favorite book
Our family likes to think that each pet we had and then lost either to death or moving, taught us to be better owners of the next one.
In order to bring closure and to demonstrate to our heart, we may need a final goodbye in a memorial way. Not to say goodbye to them, but to the dream that they will be coming back as they were.
We are closing a chapter on a very sweet book that taught us a great deal about life, and beginning a new book where we will use the wisdom learned to be a better person.
The first book will always be memorable and just seeing it on the shelf will remind us how much we enjoyed it, but it will never have the anticipation of the first reading, because we know how it will end.
1. Do you recognize the 4 feeling stages of grief as you are going through them?
2. How do you react when someone you know shares the idea of grieving more for pets than for humans?
3. Can you remember the pets you have had in the past and what joy they have brought to your life?
Please feel free to leave a comment on how you handled the feeling stages of grief.
I also want to invite you to join our community of kind, thoughtful people who want respect for all. You will want to claim your free eBook on Using Encouraging Words at www.judyhwright.com
This is a wonderful article! I have not heard anyone mention the point you make about the depth of the feeling of loss because of the unconditional love aspect. I have always been respectful of the level of grief anyone is experiencing for whatever their reasons are, but you add an interesting focus to it.
In reflecting on it, I can see that the loss of a pet might be especially difficult if your human relationships are less than supportive and rewarding.
Thank you for writing this lovely article and I have already shared it with a friend who is going through losing a beloved pet.
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Thanks for your comment. I have to admit, I am not very diligent about checking for comments, but do so appreciate it when someone takes time to share thoughts.
Our thoughts will be with your friend.
Blessings, Judy Helm Wright aka Auntie Artichoke