It’s been a while we have been trying to write a text in order to honor our beloved pets that are always with us and love us unconditionally. When I started researching about this topic and to think about how I would begin to write this text, I have faced a reality that is even more important to talk about, besides a slight tribute.
If we face the taboo of talking about the grieving of our beloved ones, can you imagine the discomfort we will find when talking about the death of a pet and can’t express this pain naturally?
The phrase “it was just a dog”, “a cat”, “a bird “and etc.… is what we usually hear around us when people try to bring some comfort to us or consider we have crossed the line when talking of our pain. But what is the limit we impose to ourselves and to others?
The psychologist Nazaré Jacobucci, a specialist in mourning, wrote an article published on her website Perdas e Luto (Loss and Grieving), where she interviewed the PhD in Psychology, Déria de Oliveira, whose PhD thesis was about: “The grieving for the pet’s death and the recognition of the loss “. The first conclusion is that there is a non-authorized feeling of mourning by the loss of an animal. You cannot cry too much or be sad for a long time and that’s what many “anti-grieving” protocols we are used to face in our society, follow.
However, Dr. Déria notes that people go through a similar process of grieving, with feelings and sensations that are similar to those of the loss of a human, such as denial, guilt, separation anxiety, anger and numbness among others.
About 52% of the study sample said that grieving for a pet’s death should be tempered and that they feel under pressure to keep their social routine unchanged, since the death of the animal does not justify so much pain. Contrary to this feeling, if we ask people what their pet represents in their families, there will be only compliments such as: “the dog is man’s best friend”, “there is no love which is so unconditional”, “my cat is a member of the family, “” he is more than a friend, he is a son. ”
If we are open enough to legitimate this feeling, why do we close ourselves, minimize, and judge the suffering for them?
More and more we find couples that chose not to have children and adopted their animals as their legitimate “heirs”. The shared custody of these animals is frequent nowadays, as well as veterinary clinics in the United States offering psychological assistance to bereaved owners. Finally, there is a growing movement of validation of the animal’s own life and its importance in the emotional context of their owners.
And for the children? For them, this contact is even more significant. Most likely, the death of a pet will be the first experience of loss that this child will go through but fortunately, in these cases, it seems that we, adults, call the truth to behavior rules and standards and authorize our little ones to experience this pain. But to what extent? Are we really ready to give them the support they need? Do we let the grieving process follow its course, or do we quickly try to fill that void in order to protect our children from suffering? Who hasn’t quickly bought another animal in order to replace the one that passed, with the best intentions ever, but without thinking that perhaps the whole family had to go through the farewell process of that little animal that, for so many years, received them with joy, love, affection and companionship?
Grief, whatever it may be, must be lived and expressed naturally and without embarrassment.
This reflection reminded me of the movie “Pay it forward.” Perhaps there is a parallel with the feeling of sympathy in pain. We will all go through losses and each of them will have the size of the love we feel for those who are gone, not the size that society has established for that kind of pain. If we make love and show empathy for that suffering friend, he will certainly remember that affection and will welcome the next person who goes through the same situation, and so we will gradually deconstruct the taboo to create a different way of facing our fears and help those who feel so lonely in this pain.
Children, always so sensitive and full of wisdom, can teach us much about this process. Here are two sensitive reports on the experience of pet grieving.
Luna e Vênus
“I felt very sad when Venus died because she was very attached to me and I loved her very much. The sadness was so intense that I cannot explain, but I felt a lot of pain in my chest and I remembered the good times that we spent together. Venus was not just my dog, she was a special dog, more than special, she was a dog that followed me everywhere I went. She was always watching me and she was the best dog. She always looked after me. I keep thinking and remembering the good times we spent together and at school my sorrow was a little relieved because I had to pay attention to class. “
Luna Bustos Ribeiro de Almeida, 10
Maria Eduarda e Bela
“When Bela died I felt my heart broken and I was very sad. But it was good; she lived a lot because dogs make the house happier. I felt a great love for her. The day she died I lit a candle for her and wondered what our house would look like without her, but some time later I was very happy because I won Chico. When my Great grand mother died I felt the same, a little more difficult because I was very close to her and she was very nice to me. I miss them both, but I’m glad they did not suffer. “
Maria Eduarda Paes de Barros, 12