Monday, August 21, 2006

Are you grieving the loss of a pet?

In an earlier article, we talked about "openly grieving" the loss of a pet.  Grieving the loss of a pet can be difficult because some people just don't understand the close connection that some people have with their pets.  Some people feel that their pets are family members.  I have even heard some people say that they are more closely connected to their pets, than their human family members. 

However, the loss of a pet can be felt differently by different people.  It's just like the "Variables in Grief" article that was posted earlier, -- The grief you feel depends on the type of relationship you had with the deceased. -- This goes for pets too!  Some people are sad that their pet has died, but seem to get over it rather quickly.  Some people feel grief, but get a new pet right away, and that appears to help them in their grief process.  Yet there are others who grieve the loss of their pet so deeply, that they can not even imagine getting a new pet - ever! 

So why are there these differences?  A book titled, "Saying Good-Bye to the Pet You Love" by Lorri A. Greene and Jacquelyn Landis describes it perfectly.  It seems that there are three types of bonding one can have with their pet.  If you read the descriptions, one can most certainly find the category they fit in - and by doing so, find the answer to why they feel they way they do - or just as importantly, prepare themselves for the kind of griever they might be. 

In brief, with permission, I have included these "types" and their descriptions here. 

1.  Conventionally Bonded - Consider their pets as members of the family, but don't give them the same status as human family members.  They provide homes and care, but the loss of a pet is not a major trauma.  They do experience grief over the loss, but seem to recover more quickly than the other two types.  This is the most common type.

2.  Intensely Bonded - Consider their pets as integral parts of the family.  They form deep emotional attachments and provide the same care to their pet as they would for the human family members.  May exceed their financial means in order to provide care.  May refer to their pet as their "surrogate child."  They may experience a long grieving process and great sense of personal loss when their pet dies.

3.  Uniquely Bonded - Consider their pets family members and may refer to them as "my best friend", "my son",  "my daughter" or "my soul mate."  They provide extravagant care and attention.  The loss of their pet is devastating and their grieving may last a very long time.

I personally feel that knowing the type of bond you have with your pet will go a long way in helping you in your grief process.  It provides an understanding on the kind of person that you are.  If a friend or family member doesn't seem to be as supportive as you think they should be, think about the type of bond they might have and you might gain a better understanding for them too.  I highly recommend this book for anyone who is grieving the loss of a companion animal or even for those who are dealing with anticipatory grief issues regarding a beloved pet. 

Until next week, please be gentle with yourself.


P.S.  If you have found this posting or previous postings helpful, please consider making a donation to The Bereavement Center.  We are a non-profit organization that serves the community, and we operate solely on donations from families, clients and the community.  As always, your donation will be greatly appreciated and acknowledged.

No comments: