If you’ve loved and lost a dog before, you know that it’s an incredibly painful experience. After all, a pet isn’t just an animal you own – it’s someone you consider a member of your family. You share a special bond with them, and they become your best friend and companion. Losing a dog can bring deep sadness.
Many times, dog owners need time to grieve and process the loss of their beloved pets before being able to move on. Those around them who have not experienced this pain may not understand. They might tell a grieving “pet parent” to just get over it since it’s “only a dog.” However, this only serves to worsen the pain.
Now, science has proven that mourning the loss of a much-loved dog is not unusual and is, in fact, a real and valid experience. In fact, this research suggests that overcoming the death of a passed pet may be harder than healing from the passing of a human. Here’s what we’ve learned from this study on why it can be so hard to overcome losing a dog.
“Sometimes losing a pet is more painful than losing a human because, in the case of the pet, you were not pretending to love it.” – Amy Sedaris
According to the Official Journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Study, we forge bonds with our pups that are very comparable to the bonds we form with people. Our brains interpret these bonding activities in the same way. In other words, our bodies produce the exact same hormones when we bond with dogs as when we bond with people.
This is why your pups begin to feel just like family to you The same chemical processes are taking place that would if you were speaking to a family member! In the case of losing a dog, you have to let go of a creature you have deeply bonded with.
So, we’ve established that you bond with dogs and humans the same way. But when a canine companion passes away, you can’t mourn for them the same way you do for people. When a human you’re close to passes away, you can seek therapy or counseling, have the support of friends, family, and loved ones, and hold or attend a funeral.
But when a dog passes away, you have to move on as quickly as you can because this is what others deem acceptable. You can’t turn down social events or have slower performance at work because, according to Telegraph, others don’t see the loss of a pet as something worth grieving over.
Additionally, attending therapy for such a thing might result in negative social repercussions. This can make it tough for you to reconcile a pet’s passing and find closure so you can move on.
3. Love and Comfort
When your pet dies, you aren’t just losing a dog. You’re losing the feelings you got around them. You’re losing their love, the comfort their presence gave, and the companionship they provided. That’s a lot to lose all in one go, and it can make you feel very empty.
Plus, dogs give their human moms and dads the kind of unconditional love that you can’t really find in people. It’s a love that really, really hurts to lose.
4. Memories and Routines
If you had a dog, they likely lived with you; you spent most of your time at home with them around. When they pass away, your home becomes different.
- Gone are the routines you got so used to – feeding your pup or taking them out on walks.
- You no longer hear them running through the house, or feel them when they jump up on your lap for a cuddle.
- This can make you feel like you’re lost, especially if you’re one of the many pet owners whose daily schedule has always involved their pets.
You might continue to automatically perform tasks or actions that would only apply if your dog was still around. This makes it all the more difficult to move on.
Sometimes, a decision about your dog’s life is placed in your hands. If they were suffering, you may have had to decide that it was time to put them to sleep. Although you made the best choice for your pup, you may still feel guilty about what happened.
Carrying around that guilt with you can make the goodbye even more difficult. You might feel like you should have done more – even when there was nothing else you could do.
So, What Does This All Mean?
Losing a dog – or any pet – is going to be heartbreaking. Remember that your feelings are absolutely valid and that it is okay to need to grieve them. And if other people don’t understand, tell them that your feelings are backed by science!