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Pets provide an unconditional love that requires very little on the part of the human.
Animals are so special to those of us who love them. We miss them when they are no longer with us. We grieve for them in ways which are just the same as grieving for a human loved one.
Whether the end comes through old age, illness, sudden death, or euthanasia, the death of a pet can cause enormous feelings of sorrow, guilt, and loneliness for children and adults alike. Yet pet owners are often inhibited in their very real grief, even if the animal was considered a fully-fledged family member, a child's favoured playmate, or an older person's loyal and faithful companion.
Pet owners in grief are largely misunderstood and can even be ridiculed by friends and by society in general.
Some people don't want a pet because they do die ! It's understandable to be reluctant to expose yourself to death but, at the same time, we become immeasurably more human because our animals die. When we live with animals we're more in tune with the rhythms of the planet from day to night and from season to season because our companions make us more aware of the changes around us. Our companion animals teach us about the simple gifts of a beautiful day, a good meal and a gentle touch.
The death of a pet can make us wrestle with our belief structure - a natural part of the grieving process. Whether grieving an animal or human, we question our beliefs and many people find their belief structure becomes stronger when they ask themselves hard questions. Others find an new way of acceptance.
We use some kind of visualisation during our grieving process, imagining our loved ones in a beautiful place of peace and tranquil beauty, filled with light and flowers. Many of us see out deceased animals in this same place. This can be helpful and can provide some peace for those who are grieving.
And we learn from our animals. Animals aren't afraid to die, they show us that the end of life can be faced without fear. They can teach us to accept death as an opening for love and wonder.
Allow yourself to grieve in whatever way is appropriate for you. The loss of a pet is real grief and causes us to travel through the stages of grief - denial, anger, depression, guilt, and acceptance. These stages must be lived through for the mourning process to allow full healing.
Susanna Duffy is a Civil Celebrant, grief counsellor and mythologist. She creates ceremonies and Rites of Passage for individual and civic functions, and specialises in celebrations for women. http://celebrant.yarralink.com
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