Each day, I read tweets where someone notes their beloved pet has “crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.” We all know what that means and understand how painful it can be when our pet makes that journey. They are gone from their humans and will be missed and mourned.
Anyone with a pet knows the close bond that develops and the mutual dependency shared. Whether you come home in the evening to be greeted by a rush of fur and telling vocals and jumps or cradled on the bed or couch, it’s comforting, and there’s a sense that your feelings are understood. Anyone who says animals aren’t sentient must read up on the latest literature on the topic.
When we consider animals, of any kind, as having an emotional attachment (consider pack mentality for dogs) to us, we can better understand that if they lost us, they would grieve.
Cats may show their love and attachment to you by “washing” you as they would other littermates. Ever wake up to a cat “washing” your face as you open your eyes in the morning? Sure, it may be that you “belong” to them, but most probably, it’s a sign of attachment and caring for you. Who said cats don’t show affection?
Yes, head rubbing (bunting) is a way of spreading their scent on you because you are a member of their social group, providing a sense of security for them. It’s essential social behavior for the cat. There is research to support these cat behaviors.
Pets are members of our world and our family, and they are our companions that provide unconditional love. How couldn’t you grieve if you lost a member of your family? It’s natural, and the loss of a pet is as real as any other loss of a member of our group.
Dr. Amy Sullivan said, “Pets are a part of your life. They provide that additional support and love, and they’ve gotten you through some very difficult times. And so in some cases, grieving a pet is even more difficult than grieving a human being.”
Do you need permission to grieve a death in your family? Of course not, and it’s no different here, either. The loss is painful; they will be missed and fondly remembered for the love and joy they brought into your life.
There is no set way to grieve or mourn the loss of a pet. Despite what some may say, no formula or steps exist, and you will find your appropriate way. The one thing that will be part of your grieving process is all the beautiful memories you need as a point of concentration.
Pets bring so much into our lives, and I’ve often wondered how not ever having had a pet might affect personal growth. No, I don’t have any research on this, but I think pet ownership makes us better people, and I admit that is a bias of mine. We’ve had many pets in our family.
I recall walking on a beach on Long Island one summer when a beautiful golden dog came running in my direction. A man walking a short distance behind the dog came by, and I asked, “Is that your dog?”
Looking amused, he responded, “No, he belongs to no one. I just keep him.” The dog wasn’t a stray, and the man was telling me that the dog was its owner.