Losing a beloved pet is emotionally heartbreaking and devastating. The loss of a pet can lead to acute grief lasting from 2 months up to a year.
After suffering the loss of her dog, a woman experienced what is known as “broken heart syndrome,” which is a condition where the grief response is so severe that the symptoms a person experiences mimic those of a heart attack–these include hormone levels that can be elevated up to 30 times greater than normal – reports Scientific American.
And yet, even though our worldview shatters, the usual coping mechanisms after someone dies are not available at that moment. For example, you don’t ask your employer for a day off because your pup died because you don’t want to appear as over-sensitive, immature, or emotionally unstable.
Losing a pet can leave significant voids in our life that we need to fill: it can change our daily routines, causing ripple effects that go far beyond the loss of the actual animal. Caring for our pet creates responsibilities and a schedule around which we often craft our days. We get exercise by walking our dog, and we socialize with other owners at the dog runs. We awake early every day to feed our cat (or we are woken by a pet if we forget!), but we get a lot more done because of it – reports Scientific American as well.
You lose the sense of companionship, it’s like a part of you is gone with the death of your pet. Many people have commitment issues, and the idea of starting a new life with their partners is unthinkable just yet. They need to ease into it, but with a pet, they are willing to commit right away.
People who’ve lost their pet are allowed to feel bad. They are allowed to grieve, and they are allowed to get social support.
Grieving pet owners should reorganize their routines and daily activities to get a sense of reality. To understand that there is more to life than that. If you’ve been walking your dog every day at 8 AM, find an alternative to help you get through the day. Go jogging or ask a friend to join you. Or just stay at home and do something completely different if you feel like morning hikes bring bad memories and it’s too soon to put salt on an open wound.
The integral part, however, is to get validation from society, from your circle of people. It’s by far the best and quickest way to heal. So be gentle and understanding to the person you know is going through the loss.
And if you are that person, just know that you are not the only one. And know that it’s okay to feel miserable and to not have even a single atom of energy inside to keep going. Grief is that: long and somber. But human. And most importantly, surpassable. If you need time, get it. As much as you need. It’s okay.