By: Nathan McKinlay
Wednesday, October 25, 2023

How do we cope with the loss of a pet?

As Funeral Directors, we are often asked to give presentations to students and volunteer organizations about many topics, most of them connected to death and dying. Grief is often a focus within any presentation. One of the more engaging parts of the presentation often revolves around cases of ‘complicated grief’- in particular, Disenfranchised Grief. 

Disenfranchised grief is where the griever is often overlooked by society, as society tends to value certain types of grief over others. Disenfranchised grief can compound the griever’s experience, as they tend to grieve without the full support of society. Sadly, the loss of a pet often falls into this category.

I’ll often begin this example by asking any pet owners in the room for a show of hands. From there I would typically ask them how many of them consider their pets to be members of their family? I would then see the same show of hands. I would then ask them how many of their workplaces would give them a bereavement day if their pet were to die? This is often met with laughter, then somber reflection.

A loss is a loss. When we lose something significant in our lives, we tend to grieve that loss. As many of us know, the grieving process, while natural, tends to be a painful upset to our ‘normal’.  It can be especially painful when your grief is minimized by others with claims that it was “just a dog” or “just a cat”. To put things further into perspective, there are many people who live alone and whose dog or cat may be their primary companion. Losing that pet – that unconditional love- can be devastating.

So more than anything, be kind. It is true that society tends to place more value on certain types of grief and minimize the experience of others. Fortunately, as citizens, we are able to do our part to make society a kinder place.

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