With an increasing number of single and couple households in Sydney there is also an increase in the number of pets. Research has shown that the level of attachment between owner and pet can be equal to the emotional bond to a person’s parent, best friend, sibling or significant other. In some particular cases the attachment can be so significant that the pets become surrogate children. As humans we can share a special bond with our pets that can foster a sense of security and well-being and also act as a buffer against stress, anxiety and depression.
Given the vital role a pet may play within a household, their loss can evoke significant bereavement. The stronger the attachment to the pet the longer and more intense can be the period of grieving. In some cases the intensity can be similar to losing a family member or significant other.
The loss of a pet may be a similar bereavement path to losing a significant other, invoking; denial, anger, bargaining, depression,numbness or disbelief. You might blame yourself or the veterinarian, or a family member. Some people find it difficult to express their bereavement openly. This may be due to the reactions from others who do not fully understand the complexity of grieving.
For those people who have lost a pet and move through the cycles of grief they become more resilient and are far more capable of caring for a new pet without projecting characteristics from the deceased pet. The process of coming to terms with loss can be a slow and difficult journey. Every person grieving is different and unique. Give yourself sufficient time, do not expect that you will be over within a set number of weeks, months or years.
Christopher Swane - Grief and Loss Counselling - Wellington New Zealand