World Pet Memorial Day
This article was written by Pet Community Center Board of Directors member and Marketing Committee Volunteer, Maryglenn Warnock. You can learn more about the author at the end of the post.
In observance of World Pet Memorial Day, June 14 2022, I would like to honor and celebrate the special bond we have with our animal companions by exploring an often misunderstood topic: grief over the loss of a pet.
In my work as a pet bereavement counselor, I’ve heard countless grieving owners express concern that their intense feelings over the loss of a pet aren’t appropriate. Some have even wondered if they’ve “lost their minds” or if their feelings are abnormal or unjustified.
If I could share one thing with anyone who is grieving the loss of a pet, it is this: there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is intensely personal. You may feel overwhelmed, sad, angry, despondent, numb, guilt-ridden, even relieved. It’s all normal.
And it’s all okay.
I think many owners are simply shocked by how intensely they feel the loss of a pet. Maybe on some level, we believe we should somehow mourn the loss of our human companions more, or that we should be more accepting of the loss of a pet. That we should understand that pets have shorter lives than humans. That we shouldn’t hurt so much. That we should be able to bounce back more quickly. Quite simply, none of those things is accurate.
Losing a pet is terrible--and here are just a few of the many reasons why:
Pets stake their claims to the real estate in our hearts.
Pets find a way of claiming a huge chunk of real estate within our hearts. Pets can be goofy, completely un- self-conscious, playful, adorable, shameless, and irresistible. What’s not to love?
Love is love. And when one loves deeply, one grieves deeply.
Pets are an important part of our lives and our routines.
Our pets are an important part of our everyday routines. Naturally, when we lose a pet, it is a huge disruption to every part of our lives. The disruption can cause incredible stress in our lives. Nothing is the same.
The sheer happiness pets bring us
Pets bring so much joy into our lives by being constant, excited to see us, and loving us unconditionally—and it’s so hard to be without that joy.
Pets bring us such comfort.
What is it with pets knowing how to do the right thing at the right time? Pets comfort us when we’re sad, and somehow know how to make even our worst days more bearable. Naturally, losing that source of comfort could leave us despondent.
Several years ago, when I was in the midst of losing my father, my beloved Old English Sheepdog Major was such a comfort to me—always available to absorb my sadness, to calm my fears, and just be there.
The bond we have with our pets is strong and intense.
Many people consider their relationships with pets closer than those with human family members. Our selves are often tied up in our pets. When we lose a pet, and lose the bond that we cherish, it is natural to feel overwhelmed with grief and sadness. Loss is hard, regardless of whether it is the loss of a human companion, the loss of a job, or the loss of a pet.
The physical contact a pet brings is important
One of the most meaningful aspects of owning a pet is the physical contact a pet affords us. Pets typically love affection, and as humans with a need for physical touch, this is a mutually beneficial relationship. Naturally, losing a pet and losing the ability to hold, cuddle and touch the pet creates a huge loss for us on many levels.
The uncomplicated relationship
Our relationships with humans may leave us with mixed or conflicting feelings, but our relationships with our pets are typically pretty straightforward. We love them without question, we don’t hold grudges (nor do they) and when we lose them, the pain can be excruciating.
Never long enough
I saw a card the other day that may have said it best: Pets just don’t live long enough. That’s really their only fault.
How lucky we are to share our lives with pets. How very lucky indeed.
About the Author: Maryglenn Warnock
(Photo Credit: Lacey Maloch, Strays to Baes)
Maryglenn Warnock is the founder of Paws to Remember and is a certified pet bereavement counselor. She is also a pet funeral officiant/pet chaplain who is ordained through the Universalist church.
A lifelong animal advocate, Maryglenn serves on Pet Community Center's Board of Directors and volunteers for their Marketing Committee. Additionally, she has served on the executive board of the Nashville Humane Association and volunteered in animal rescue for 20 years. Maryglenn graduated from Vanderbilt University with a BA in English.
Maryglenn is a native of Munfordville, Kentucky who lives in Nashville with her husband Tim and their Old English Sheepdog, Major.