There are many aspects to dealing with the loss of a pet. Let’s examine Ambiguous Loss, Disenfranchised Grief along with Common Emotions Associated with Lost Pets.
What is meant by ambiguous loss? Basically it’s grief without closure and is considered the most stressful loss people can face. It occurs when an animal is lost and never found. The owners then suffer never knowing whether their pet will be seen again.
This happens when someone is denied the opportunity to grieve. Mourning the death of a dog or cat is socially unacceptable grief. It’s the most cruel and difficult grief to bear. While most people are surrounded by supporting family and friends when a child dies, for example, the owners of lost pets carry their burden alone, often forced to hide and suppress their feelings and emotions. Pet owners often hear “It’s only a cat” or “just go to the pound and get another one.” Often the HAB (human-animal bond) is what influences grief. People can have strong HAB’s for anything from rats to dogs. The “odder” the pet, such as a mouse or iguana, the less socially acceptable the grief.
Common Emotions Associated with Lost Pets
1. Fear – a raw panic in which people think they’ll never see the pet again or that it will be killed or it will suffer. 2. Sorrow – at the thought of not being there for their pet for the rest of its life 3. Guilt – the person responsible for the incident feels guilty for letting the animal escape or not being more careful 4. Blame – pet owners sometimes blame other for the loss of their pet. 5. Anger – at anyone who caused the incident or at themselves for allowing the pet to become lost. So what should you do if you know someone who’s lost a pet? DO be sympathetic with the owner DO say you’re sorry for their grief DO offer to listen, but don’t give advice when the person needs to just vent emotions. DO NOT claim you “know how you feel” or “have walked in their shoes.” DO NOT make judgments such as saying the person should have never declawed their cat, should have had their dog neutered, or should have kept the cat inside.