What Does It Mean To Suffer Pet Bereavement?
Updated February 13, 2020
Reviewer Christie LeBeau, LMFT
If you've ever owned a pet, you know just how important they are to you. You know that they become a part of your family and you can't imagine your life without them. Unfortunately, dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and other pets just don't live as long as people do. What that means is you're very likely to go through pet bereavement several times in your lifetime if you're the type of person who owns their pets. You will experience the loss far too often, but working through it is important.
What Is Pet Bereavement?
Just like with your family members, losing a pet can be extremely difficult to work through. You find yourself struggling with the loss and trying to work your way through the grief in the best way that you can, but it's difficult. Pets can be some of our greatest companions, and they can be some of our most valued friends as well. They are almost like children to us because of the way we care for them throughout their lives. When something happens to them, whether we're expecting it or not, it can take a lot to overcome.
When you experience the loss of your pets, you are experiencing bereavement or grief, which is completely normal. The level of bereavement that you experience can vary greatly and may depend on just how long you've had that pet or how sudden the loss was. If you knew that your pet was sick, it might make it easier for you to say goodbye rather than if the loss was sudden. If you've had the same pet since you were small, it may affect you more strongly than if this was a pet that you had just adopted a week before.
Keep in mind that everyone goes through grief in different ways as well. One person may seem to exhibit more grief and pain at a loss than another, but that doesn't mean that one cared for their pet more. You may experience difficulty eating or sleeping, nausea, sadness or any number of other symptoms in any combination or you may experience something entirely different. No matter what you experience, it's important to seek out professional help if you find yourself struggling for longer than two weeks or if your symptoms seem to be severe.
Getting Help For Bereavement
If you're experiencing extreme symptoms or if your symptoms continue it's a good idea to talk with a professional about what you're going through. It may be that you are simply working your way through the grief process, but it could be possible that your grief is something much more dangerous, such as major depressive disorder. No matter what you're going through or what the cause is, working with a mental health professional can help you to feel better, and it can help you to work towards feeling like yourself again faster as well.
A mental health professional will help you get down to the cause of your sadness or other feelings, both physical and mental, and they will be able to help you figure out a path towards a healthy and happy life again. Make sure when you talk to a professional you explain to them what you're going through and work with them to find a healthy solution or path forward. It's going to take time and effort. Getting through a loss is never going to be easy, and for some, it may be even more difficult than others, but it can be done.
Never feel like your feelings are silly or worthless or that you're ridiculous because the grief is for a pet. A pet is just as important to many families as any other member of the family. The way that you experience the loss and the grief associated with it is an important part of who you are and how important that pet was to your family. There is nothing wrong with it, but there are ways that you can help yourself to get through it. Getting help in this is going to be the best way forward.
What You May Feel
There are some different things that you may feel, which can range from extreme sadness, to nausea, headaches, trouble sleeping, trouble eating and much more. You may experience highs and lows in your mood that are unexplainable. You may experience nothing for the first few days, weeks or even months and then suddenly start to experience symptoms of grief and depression. These methods of coping with the loss are normal, but talking with a professional can help you to understand better them, which can help your recovery process greatly.
There are plenty of professionals out there, and maybe you've even tried talking to someone, but you just weren't quite sure about the experience. Maybe you had difficulty getting to your appointments every week, or you had trouble finding someone in your area that you felt comfortable with. That's not a problem anymore because there are plenty of ways to reach out to someone without having to worry about either one. BetterHelp is one way that you can branch out and find someone that you'll feel comfortable with, and without having to go to the office physically.
BetterHelp is a completely online service that allows you to connect with mental health professionals at any time. You'll be able to log on, find someone that you feel comfortable with and set up appointments that you can keep no matter where you are. That's because you get to meet up with someone who could be located anywhere in the country (expanding your potential pool of mental health professionals) and you get to connect from anywhere with an internet connection. If you have to go out of town unexpectedly, you'll still be able to make it to your appointment, because you can just log on from the hotel. It's super simple and easy.