Understanding the grief and loss of losing a pet
By Leanne Billiau
Her eyes were dim and pleading, and when her time came, we were heartbroken. She was our girl and we loved her. The love my husband and I felt for her was real, and so our grief was also real. Childless by choice, she was our baby. Yes, she was “just a dog,” but she was our pet—our beloved companion animal who would come comfort us when we hurt. And now we were hurting because she was gone.
More often than not, when we speak of grief and loss, we do so in relation to the death of a person we loved, such as a spouse, parent, or friend. But what about the sadness we experience after the loss of a beloved pet?
People who have never been strongly attached to a pet may have difficulty understanding how significant and painful pet loss can be. I recognize that this depth of love for an animal may not make sense to some people. Pets are not human, after all, nor can we interact with them in the same way we interact with one another. But that’s the thing about feelings: they are not always logical and they cannot always be explained.
What we do know is that pets are good for our health and for our souls. They lower our blood pressure and decrease our heart rate all the while reminding us to play, to exercise and to live in the moment. Pets can be a source of laughter, joy and connection to others. They inspire us to strive for unconditional love.
So while we are not all “animal lovers,” we all love. And with love comes loss. And with loss comes pain. As of yet, we have no scientific measure for pain, physical or emotional. All we will ever know about the heart or the pain of another person is what they choose to share with us.
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” -Carol Sobieski & Thomas Meehan