it’s not 'just a dog'...
“Grief – The price we pay for love” a wise woman once said... that wise woman was actually Queen Elizabeth II.
by Jo-Anna Sell, Paws in Work blogger.
Whether she was talking about people or her corgis we don’t know but what we do know is that losing a pet is a very traumatic life event, and traumatic life events have a huge impact on our mental health.
We are a nation of animal lovers and our pets give us something that often humans do not. Pure unconditional love. When this is taken away from us we can be left absolutely devastated and feeling totally lost.
Yet many people do not and will not talk as openly about grieving for our pets as we perhaps would when grieving for our people.
How many of us would feel comfortable crying about our pet in the office or taking a couple of days off to grieve? Would we think we were being judged? Would people think we are silly or are being dramatic? All that on top of the loss we are coming to terms with can be a lot to deal with.
We have heard it all before “Don’t know why they are so upset, it was only a dog/cat/hamster/etc…" Erm.. no…..it was a little life, someone’s little life and now it is gone. There is a gaping hole in that someone’s world where the “just a dog/cat/hamster/etc” used to bring great joy, purpose, trust, happiness, escape and most importantly, great love.
Sadly, stigma can still surround elements of Mental Health and this is one of them. We need empathy, compassion, kindness, patience and time when we lose our animals, just as we would when we lose our people.
it is perfectly ok to not be ok.
You need to be able to come to terms with what has happened and in time, the waves of grief will become less regular and the tears will turn to smiles again as we remember all the beautiful times we spent with our furry friends.
We never forget them, in fact, when I (Jo, Head of Well-Being) lost my chocolate Labrador CoCo 5 years ago to cancer, it was one of the most traumatic times of my life.
He had been my best friend for 10 years and helped me through some of my darkest days. Losing him was devastating. I remember the morning after he had gone across the rainbow bridge, walking down stairs at home and wondering if I would ever feel joy again. The sadness was so deep, painful and real. 5 years on and I still speak about him most days, the occasional tear falls but mainly smiles, gratitude and joy have returned when remembering the precious moments that we once shared.
After he passed, I found the hardest part was waiting for his ashes. Once I had them back it brought a sense of calm and comfort that he was back where he should be, at home.
things that helped me.
- planting a rose bush in his favourite area of 'his' garden.
- painting memorial stones.
- finding my favourite pictures.
- painting my pup's portrait and getting an artist to create something unique and wonderful to display.
- talking to people.
- sharing your grief with those that loved your pets too really can go a long way to help.
how can I support someone if I cannot relate?
Understanding pet grief can be difficult for those that may not be animal lovers or those who have never owned a pet. However, empathy and kindness is the most important part in being there for someone that is distressed. Telling people that you understand it is painful for them, not to belittle feelings, NEVER to say it is just an animal and listening…. The power of listening is so underrated.
Remember if you need someone to talk to, any of our team at PIW always have an ear to listen with, a cup of tea to share with and hugs as soon as we are allowed. You can always drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We love you our little furry friends, you are never “just a”….