How to deal with grief after the death of my pet?

Some people may think that facing the death of a dog, cat or any animal is more manageable compared to that of a family member or friend; However, there are pets that have played a very important role as life companions, providing unconditional affection, joy, nobility and fidelity, thus managing to gain a huge space in the hearts of their owners, until becoming a fundamental part of the family. making the feeling of loss can be really hard.

According to a study by the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Hawaii, United States, 30% of owners come to feel pain for half a year or more, while for 12% it represents a very traumatic event in their lives[ Yo]. Regarding this, Adriana Flores Salazar, a psychologist specializing in thanatology, stated: “Close to 50% of the owners, after the loss of their pets, suffer difficulties in their work and/or social life as a result of the mourning period[ ii]. In addition, many of my patients claim to have felt ashamed, because relatives or friends could not understand the significant bond they formed with their colleagues and from which they had to get rid of”.

The range of emotions that they live in those moments can be very complicated and difficult to carry. The specialist explained that the way in which the pet died at the time of mourning has too much influence. According to this same study, 52% of the owners had lost it due to natural causes and another 37% had been forced to use euthanasia due to a serious condition, the latter were the people who presented the greatest problem to overcome it[iii ].

“Many have a hard time eliminating the feeling of guilt, either for not having spent more time with their pet or, even worse, if their death was due to some disease for which, unfortunately, there was no longer any hope; because they experience the sensation of having been able to avoid it ”, she mentioned.

Such was the case with Viviana Vargas, a lawyer and owner of her Dalmatian puppy, Hanna. “They used to call me exaggerated for having suffered and mourned her death for several months, even though I only lived with her for nine months. As a girl, my parents had never let me have a dog, it was until I worked, I became independent and I thought I had found the perfect moment to have one; literally, Hanna was my only company when she came home; however, she was not as well informed about the diseases that could be deadly for her”.

She “she She was always healthy and playful. I never thought that, on a daily walk to the park, she would catch Distemper, better known as Distemper. After a few days she was no longer the same, fever, tics and seizures began to seize her and, after a great battle to save her, the vet told me that her suffering and the consequences of this disease were going to be enough. . I felt extremely guilty because she repeated to me, on several occasions, that there are vaccines against this virus, that there were ways to prevent the disease. I felt like all the blame fell on me,” she expressed.

Faced with this mixture of feelings that owners can experience, one must be very cautious. For this reason, Sandra Cortés Robles, Director of the Companion Animal Segment of the veterinary pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, known for its Recombitek vaccines, emphasized that, although it is important that pet owners are informed about viral diseases, bacterial and chronic diseases to which your pets are susceptible, it is necessary to raise awareness among veterinarians, family members and friends about the fundamentals of allowing them to grieve, supporting them in the process, not repressing emotions and being as empathetic as possible when speaking about the topic.

“It is also not recommended to keep things that belonged to your pet (beds, houses, toys, dishes, collars), especially if the death was caused by a virus, since having another pet at home, or the intention of acquiring one In a short time, it can be spread because the pathogens can remain in the environment for months”, explained Sandra Cortés.

Both specialists affirmed that it is healthy and normal to go through different phases to overcome her departure:

Denial: Denying yourself or those around you that the loss has occurred.
Discontent: For not being able to prevent his death, looking for causal reasons and guilt.
Negotiation: Understanding the pros and cons. An attempt is made to find a solution even though the “if” does not exist.
Depression: Depressive episodes may occur that should subside over time.
Acceptance: It is assumed that the loss is inevitable. Accepting is not the same as forgetting.

“It is logical, not all of us take the same time to recover from the loss of a loved one. For many people, pets will always be those beings that teach us nobility, kindness they will always be those beings who teach us nobility, goodness and unconditional love; For this reason, taking care of them, maintaining an adequate calendar of both their vaccination scheme and deworming, is the best way to show our gratitude and have them for a longer time as life partners” concluded Sandra Cortés Robles, Director of the segment of Companion Animals from Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health.

“Until you have loved an animal, part of your soul will be asleep”, Anatole France

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By Lee Chun Hei