Pet Loss and Grieving

Cockatiel.com recognizes that the relationship between a companion animal and a person is a special one. When that beloved pet dies, an important love bond is broken. Most people suffer grief and mourning. These feelings must be acknowledged in order to resolve them.

Many adults find it difficult to acknowledge and show their grief over a pet for fear of being thought of as “silly.” On the contrary, grieving the loss of a pet is a natural process and many of the feelings and reactions are similar to those of grieving the loss of a person.

The loss of a pet may result in strong emotional experiences and even physical disturbances. Our personalities, along with our emotions, undergo changes; we become distressed and this distress may be expressed in mood swings. We are left with anger and loneliness, emptiness and perhaps guilt. We wonder how to deal with these emotions and disturbances.

The healthiest way to deal with loss and the associated feelings is to allow ourselves to mourn. After all, this pet played an intricate part in our lives and may have met many of our emotional needs. Not to acknowledge this loss and let the grief go unexpressed can lead to future emotional, and possibly physical disturbances.

Before Choosing Another Pet
Before choosing another pet, seek counsel from your veterinarian concerning different breeds. Explain your loss and describe your lifestyle so that staff can help you choose the pet who is right for you.

Many well-meaning people may urge you to “get another pet” right away. This is not recommended, as it may lead to problems when relating to your new pet, and inhibit healthy grieving.

The first mistake may be choosing an animal strictly because it looks like the one who was lost. So many expectations will be placed on the new animal that disaster will be inevitable. Animal shelters are full of pets who did not meet someone’s expectations.

No animal can take the place of a lost pet. Each animal, as with each person, has a unique personality; no two are alike. Specific breeds have basic characteristics, but no two individuals from that breed will have the same personality. In choosing another pet, some people decide to stay with the same breed because they are familiar with that breed’s traits, while other people take the opportunity to change breeds so that certain traits will not evoke memories.

The second mistake commonly made is to “surprise” someone with a pet as a replacement. Unless the adult or child has gone through the grieving process and has shown an interest in another pet or has requested one, people should not try to be “helpful,” acting with the idea “I know what’s good for you.”