Duel for pets: when our loyal friend leaves
The loss of a pet, the grief that is suffered when this one dies is one of the most painful and stressful experiences that you can get to live .
It is well known that the issue of mourning for the death of a relative, friend or acquaintance is widely studied and, most importantly, socially accepted. But, What about when our beloved pet dies?
It is an issue that, despite becoming increasingly important due to the growing role change of pets in the family, is still ignored, undervalued and even denied. Then we will go into more detail.
What we know about mourning for a pet
Referring to the psychological impact of the process of mourning for a pet, according to the studies conducted by Field and colleagues (2009), is comparable to the one that lives after a human loss . The mourning process would have an oscillating duration between 6 months and a year, with an average of 10 months (Dye and Wroblel, 2003).
In several studies (Adrian et al, 2009) it was found that this death produced an emotional incapacitation in a percentage of 12% of people that could lead to psychological pathologies, although this is not the most common. In another study (Adams et al., 2000), it was found that these people had physical and emotional symptoms such as sleep problems, loss of appetite and feeling that "something inside them had died".
Differential aspects to the grieving process for human loss
As we have already mentioned, the process experienced by the loss of a pet is similar to that of a loved one, but despite this there are certain characteristics that make it a little different: the great feeling of guilt, social attitudes and the absence of rites
When this type of loss occurs, the affected people may have serious difficulties to carry out a correct resolution of the grief due to the harsh social attitudes they have to face, which is called Unrecognized duel.
In fact, in a study conducted by Adams et al. (2000), it was discovered that half of the people who had suffered this type of loss had the feeling that society did not consider their situation "worthy" of a grieving process. In other words, that said loss is not important since it does not legitimize the deep bond between the person and their pet and it is considered to be replaceable (Doka, 2008).
Unrecognized grief, then, would appear when a person feels that their process has no recognition or validation, and there is a lack of support for it. Comments that exemplify it could be: "It is not so much, it is only a dog (or the species that is the case)", "then buy another", "you can not leave your responsibilities for this", etc.
As we have already mentioned, this type of unrecognized mourning can hinder the natural course of mourning since the person could be forced to behave "normal", "as if nothing had happened", as it is what they demand, and could also retain internally all your feelings and refuse to ask for help because of shame. For all this, this denial of grief can lead to a complicated or unsolved duel (Kaufman and Kaufman, 2006).
The guilt in mourning for loss of pets
Several authors investigated that the fault is a factor mostly present in cases of loss of pets . This extreme guilt is explained by the type of relationship established with the animal and because most deaths are caused by euthanasia.
The type of relationship is explained by the fact that the caregiver considers himself totally responsible for the life of his partner, so the relationship is one of total dependence. Adding to this that we would see our pets as defenseless, this would lead to a relationship similar to that of a parent with their baby.
Death by euthanasia would be a clear factor in guilt, enhancing it in most cases . It can be seen as a liberating alternative to the suffering of the animal but it can also be felt that he has made the decision of the death of his friend, making him a murderer.
The funeral rites
The fact of being able to say goodbye in a formal way of the loved one is a key factor differentiating the mourning in animals . The absence of this and many other rites can lead to problems in the resolution of the duel as it prevents the performance of an act in honor of the animal and be able to say goodbye publicly.
Although there are currently pet crematories, this act is more a procedure than a ritual, since the usual method is for the services to take care of the ashes and deliver them to the corresponding veterinarian (Chur-Hansen, 2010).
The review of empirical studies leads to the conclusion that there is a grieving process in people who lose their pet . The impact of this is comparable to the loss of a loved human being and there is also a high probability of becoming a complicated duel due to the factors mentioned.
Recommendations to pass the duel
The recommendations we can make go in the direction of the need to create awareness about this type of loss in order to facilitate this process to be carried out correctly in the people who suffer it, since, in addition, it is an issue that is becoming more frequent in our society.
On the other hand, recommendations facing the people who are going through those moments would be to make a commemorative act for the pet, a formal farewell to it. It can be in letter format, plant a tree, recite some words in your name ... there are many options, but expressing the thoughts with words is highly recommended as it helps to reorganize one's feelings and ideas and also allows to capture how much the mascot has brought us.
Another important measure is try to gradually reduce the bitter thoughts and stay with the happy , remember the many good moments that our colleague has given us, in order to create resilience.
Last but not least, keep in mind that a pet is irreplaceable. It is not advisable to try to fill that gap desperately by having another, since a new pet does not have to be a replacement. When the feeling that you have spent much of the duel and it is time, then surely there will be many animals waiting to be given affection.