That is one of the questions we can’t help but ask when we lose our pets. Do the people around me really, truly understand my pain? You receive words of condolences, but do you really feel the meaning of “my condolences to you and your family?”
When I lost my favorite dog Sheero, that was how I felt. The only ones who knew what to do or say where those who were also pet owners, or who’ve lost pets of their own. But those who never had pets or never been close to one, didn’t really know how to make me feel better — some even bordered tactless. They’d say “condolence,” which was ok even though some sounded perfunctory and felt like an automatic response when I told them my dog died. Well, it’s definitely better than others who would say: “it’s just a dog.”
Saying “it’s just a dog/cat/mouse/etc.” is probably one of the worse things you can say to a grieving pet owner. It’s like downplaying the owner’s grief for a family member. Most (if not all) of us consider pets as family. Saying something like that is really insensitive. But the thing is, being able to empathize requires you to be able to understand one’s pain. If you’ve never had a pet or considered one as part of the family, it really is quite hard to understand why another would go through such grieving for “just” an animal.
Although folks who said the wrong thing when I was grieving made me feel worse than I already was, I couldn’t blame them. I knew they just didn’t understand. I’ve learned not to take offense, and be the one to understand that not everyone would consider the loss of a pet could equal the pain of losing a fellow human being.
That’s actually what makes pet loss doubly hard for me. When you lose a relative (a human relative), everyone feels your pain. Aside from the fact that everyone has lost somebody at least once in their lives, losing a fellow human reminds us of own mortality. But a pet? Animals have shorter lives than we do. And unfortunately, not everyone consider pets as a member of the family. To some, they’re just animals. They just wouldn’t understand the pain, suffering, and the extent that we’d go through for our deceased pet. And that, I think, is what makes pet loss much more difficult. It’s not just about the pain of losing a pet, but more on the support you will get when your pet passes away.
Bereaved pet owners shouldn’t suffer alone. Here in Pets on Rainbow Bridge, we aim to help and support folks who have recently lost their pets. Hopefully, interacting with fellow pet owners and reading stories of hope and recovery could help ease the pain and provide closure to those who need it.