How can anything that is priceless to us be classified as “just”? Sadly, family pets are too often referred to as “just a cat” or “just a dog.” The word “just” is heartless when referring to any type of family pet.
Research tells us that pet ownership has more than tripled since the 1970’s. Currently, 68% of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, have a pet. Of these families, 9 in 10 consider their pets to be a part of their families.
So it is no wonder that losing a pet is often as hard as, or harder than, losing a human family member.
Many people are hesitant to admit this and often consider themselves a “horrible person” for feeling this way. Yet, this honest disclosure can often lead to a poignant conversation on why the death of a beloved pet can feel like a greater loss.
Human relationships can often be problematic and difficult; they take work. The relationships we have with our pets are so SIMPLE. They are always happy to see us when we get home, they forgive easily and they love us with pure, unconditional love. They join us in the bathroom, often sleep with us and become our shadows. They are a constant presence in our lives. They sense how our day went without explanation. What a beautiful gift to be understood without words! They love us the way we need to be loved.
The Difference Between Grief and Mourning
Often times people believe grief and mourning are the same thing. Although they both stem from the deep sadness over a painful loss, they are indeed different.
Grief is how you think and feel on the inside. The wide ranges of emotions you may be experiencing are known only to you. Grief is isolated and can be very lonely.
Mourning is when you let the grief bottled up inside of you come out; you express it outwardly from yourself. Examples of mourning are crying, talking about your loved one, journaling, screaming into a pillow or attending a funeral.
Mourning is a critical part of healing. It is a way to accept the reality of the death and remember the loved one you lost. It allows you to feel and share the pain of your loss and let others help you.
As shared by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. there are three truths for grieving people:
You must make friends with the darkness before you can enter the light.
You must go backward before you can go forward.
You must say hello before you can say goodbye.
I hear time and again from grieving clients that they are scared to cry because they are afraid they will not be able to stop.
I always remind them that crying is a part of healing. Tears are unspoken words from their broken heart. The tears will stop; they may come again, unexpectedly, but again they will stop.
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief . . . and unspeakable love.”