When a pet or its owner dies - grieving goes both ways
Grief is a natural and normal response to the loss of a loved one, and for many, it is difficult to cope with the overpowering emptiness which suddenly takes over, on top of the already distressed emotions. Dealing with the death of someone dear to us is never easy, especially if it is a companion who has shared our life for a very long time. They are missed, and the grief we feel can be enormously painful, overwhelming, and exhausting.
The bond between a pet owner and his or her loyal friend is like no other, and there is no easy way to say goodbye. The loss of a pet can be a devastating experience, affecting everyone's routine in many unsuspected ways. Losing a pet is no different than the death of a close human friend, who would also be mourned deeply and tremendously missed.
It is important to understand that grief is normal, natural and healthy. Some pet owners need to openly share their feelings with others who are sympathetic and compassionate. They may organize a funeral and memorial services for their departed animal companion and will invite friends and relatives to join in prayer. They may even buy a burial plot at a nearby cemetery. Holding these ceremonies is important to them for several reasons. It may be their way to find closure and eventually move on, but it may also be to help children understand that all living beings can die, and the trauma and confusion they are feeling will take a natural course and, in due time, resolve itself.
Even though they cannot talk and express their feelings, the grief pets feel when an owner or a companion dies is as real as that of a person. Domesticated pets are attached to their owners and will exhibit signs of intense stress when they get separated. In fact, grieving pets can show identical separation anxiety symptoms to those experienced by their human counterparts, and can become restless, anxious and depressed. In extreme cases the pet may stop eating, sleep more or little, and may even leave its home in search for its departed owner or partner. These pets may be disoriented, or show other extreme behavior changes, and if they do not get proper care may even die of a broken heart. Therefore, it is important that these grieving pets receive appropriate veterinary care.
Grief is probably one of the most complex, confusing and painful emotions a person or pet can experience and should not be dismissed lightly. Anguish cannot be forced away and only with time, and going through all the grieving steps, will the heartache resolve itself and allow mourners to move on. All you can do as a supportive bystander, who is trying to comfort a grieving person or pet, is to be understanding, empathetic and patient!