Anyone who has ever lost a pet or had to have a pet euthanized has felt the heartbreak that goes along with that loss. Most of us consider our pets part of our families and losing them is just as tough as losing a human loved one. Some people seem to grieve more for their pets than their human loved ones that passed away. They are confused about their emotions and even have people tell them their feelings are wrong.
As it turns out, there’s a reason that some people grieve the loss of a pet more than a human.
Frank McAndrew shared the story of his dog Murphy and the grief he and his wife experienced when they had to euthanize him. He also explains why it is okay to feel that way.
“Recently, my wife and I went through one of the more excruciating experiences of our lives – the euthanasia of our beloved dog, Murphy. I remember making eye contact with Murphy moments before she took her last breath – she flashed me a look that was an endearing blend of confusion and the reassurance that everyone was OK because we were both by her side. When people who have never had a dog see their dog-owning friends mourn the loss of a pet, they probably think it’s all a bit of an overreaction; after all, it’s “just a dog.” However, those who have loved a dog know the truth: Your own pet is never “just a dog.” Many times, I’ve had friends guiltily confide to me that they grieved more over the loss of a dog than over the loss of friends or relatives.“
It’s not a matter of loving a pet more than a human, but a matter of being able to love a dog equally as a family member.
We are told that a pet’s life is not as important as that of a human, but yet we interact with them the same, care for them the same, and develop relationships and love for them the same as we do our friends and family members.
“Research has confirmed that for most people, the loss of a dog is in almost every way comparable to the loss of a human loved one. Unfortunately, there’s little in our cultural playbook — no grief rituals, no obituary in the local newspaper, no religious service – to help us get through the loss of a pet, which can make us feel more than a bit embarrassed to show too much public grief over our dead dogs.”
There have actually been a lot of studies on the topic, and many experts agree that this is a very normal thing for people to go through.
It also explains why people are so quick to get a new pet after they lost one and grieved so strongly for it.
According to a recent survey by Science Direct,
“Many bereaved pet owners will even mistakenly interpret ambiguous sights and sounds as the movements, pants, and whimpers of the deceased pet. This is most likely to happen shortly after the death of the pet, especially among owners who had very high levels of attachment to their pets.”
Frank and his wife are not surprised to hear that it’s normal to feel this way over a pet.
After all, it was a natural reaction to them. The couple wants others to know that it’s okay to have these feelings and that they shouldn’t be ashamed of them. Frank added,
“While the death of a dog is horrible, dog owners have become so accustomed to the reassuring and nonjudgmental presence of their canine companions that, more often than not, they’ll eventually get a new one. So yes, I miss my dog. But I’m sure that I’ll be putting myself through this ordeal again in the years to come.”
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