For dog lovers, there is nothing more special and pure as having a deep bond with these furry animals. No one and nothing can match a dog’s loyalty and the kind of comfort they bring to our lives.
And it is one of life’s most excruciating experiences when we lose them.
To those who haven’t had dogs, it can be difficult to understand the depth of this loss. In fact, many of them will tell you that “it’s just a dog, anyway.”
However, research now proves that for most people, the pain of losing a dog is comparable to losing a human loved one. That the grief we experience is similar in almost every way. That for some, the pain could even be much worse.
And the sad thing is, society’s response to pet loss is… lackluster.
There is almost nothing in our culture that helps us properly grieve the loss or our furry loved ones. And when people are denied sufficient support after the death of a pet, it can cause them even more additional pain and feelings of shame.
So what is it exactly about this bond between humans and dogs that makes it so hard for people to grieve?
5 Reasons why losing a dog can be as painful as losing a loved one
“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one is a life diminished.”
– Dean Koont
1. A Powerful Bond
Our brains don’t see a difference when we bond with people and when we do with dogs. The Official Journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Study found that our brains produce the same kind of hormones when we bond with dogs the same way we connect with humans.
The same chemical process takes place, which is why our dogs start feeling like family to us. And it feels exactly the same way when we lose them as if we have lost a family member, too.
2. The grieving process is different.
When we lose a loved one, we have readily available avenues of dealing with it. We have therapies, counseling, support from family and friends, and even funerals. But when we lose a dog, the mourning process is different.
We’re told to move on as quickly as possible. We’re even told that grieving too much is just ridiculous. Your work performance can’t suffer just because your dog died. You’ll get scoffed at if you make an excuse not to attend social gatherings.
You’re simply not allowed the same level of graciousness. This is exactly why it could be even more difficult to move on.
3. You’ve lost someone who loved you unconditionally.
You don’t just lose a dog. It’s so much more than that. You lost the feeling you have when they are around.
Never again will you feel their comforting presence or how they made you feel less alone. And you are losing their unconditional love, too.
The loss of a dog leaves such a huge empty space where they used to be. It can be hard to take in when you lose that much.
4. Your daily life changes drastically.
Our dogs are a big part of our daily routine. And we feel this change perhaps even more profoundly as if we’ve lost a friend or a relative.
Because our daily schedules and even our travel or social plans depend on the needs of our pups. They’re there when we leave for work and they’re there when we come home.
We are so used to thinking of them, making plans, and having them around, that when they are gone, we are faced with drastic change. And this sudden change in lifestyle can cause us stress.
5. We feel a lot of guilt.
Depending on the circumstances of our dog’s death, we feel varying depths of guilt.
Primarily, it is because we are our dogs’ masters. Their health and safety were put in our hands. And when something happens to them, we immediately take responsibility.
It is especially difficult when you have to make the conscious decision to put your dog to sleep. You know you’ve made the logical choice, especially for the well-being of your dog. However, no matter how much you reason, you will still feel like you should have done more.
The loss of a dog is truly heartbreaking. And there is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to grieve, no matter how long it takes.
Your feelings are valid. And if you find yourself going through the five stages of grief, know that it’s normal. In fact, it’s a healthy way to deal with loss.
And lastly, don’t close yourself off to another furry friend sometime in the future. Dogs enrich our lives in beautiful ways.
Keep the memories of your beloved companion alive by remembering them with joy in your heart.