If you are reading this, you are likely dealing with some of the most difficult emotions you’ve ever experienced. When a beloved pet dies, many people are surprised by the intensity of their grief. Although normal and necessary, intense grief makes us all feel uncomfortable and we worry that something is going “wrong” with us. In reality, grief is a necessary, unavoidable process that occurs after the death of a loved one. Crying, intense sadness, and even anger are normal, healthy parts of the grief process. In fact, one scientific study revealed that the tears produced from an eye irritant are chemically different than the tears shed from grief (the grief tears contained different chemicals such as serotonin). This shows that as human beings, we are biologically disposed to cry when dealing with grief. While normal, these emotions are very difficult to bear and can even be embarrassing to describe to others. This is especially true when describing your grief to people who do not have pets in their lives, and it may be difficult for them to understand the intensity of your grief.
Pet companions offer us a type of unconditional love that is difficult to find in our human relationships. Many people describe this type of love as pure and constant. Pet companions don’t care about how much money we make or our appearance, and accept us despite our faults. They simply love and accept us for who we are. Given this profound type of relationship, it is perfectly normal to grieve over the loss of a beloved pet companion. Your level of attachment and closeness to the loved one is the key. Whether it is a person or an pet companion, it is the kind of relationship you shared with the loved one that will determine how intensely you grieve.
One of the best ways to deal with your grief is to realize that these reactions are normal and to let these feelings run their natural course. Honoring your grief and validating your feelings are the first steps toward healing. What is most important is that you give yourself the time and space to grieve in your own personal way, and to seek the support that you feel is the most helpful.