Why grieving a pet is harder than suffering a loved one

The key components of human attachment include:

Experiencing the other as a reliable source of comfort and seeking them out in times of distress.

Feeling pleasure when they are present.

Missing them when separated.

These characteristics are also found in our relationship with pets, according to researchers.

There are some complexities. There are certain groups that have a higher likelihood of developing a close relationship with their pet. These include older people who are isolated and those who have lost faith in humansindividuals who depend on assistance animals also fall into this category.

Researchers found that our attachment to our furry, feathered, and scaled friends comes at a cost, as we mourn the loss of them. Some aspects of pet grieving are unique.


Many people may only have experienced grief in connection with euthanasia through the death of their pet. The guilt or doubt that comes with euthanising a beloved companion animal can make grief more difficult. research, for example, found disagreements in families over whether or not it was right to put an animal to sleep are particularly difficult.

Euthanasia gives people the chance to prepare themselves for a loved animal’s death. It is an opportunity to say goodbye, plan final moments of love and respect and express them through a favorite meal, a quiet night together or a goodbye.

People’s reactions to pet euthanasia are very different. Israeli researchers discovered that 83% of people felt certain about their decision to euthanize a pet after the death. They felt they were giving their pet a less painful death.

Pet grief can make people turn inwards. Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock

A Canadian study revealed that 16% of the participants who had their pets euthanised felt like “murderers.” American research also shows how nuanced a decision can be. In a study, 41% of participants felt guilty after euthanizing their pet and 4% had suicidal thoughts. People’s experiences of pet euthanasia are influenced by cultural beliefs, their attachment style, and personality.

Unenfranchised grievance

Socially, this type of loss still isn’t acceptable. Disenfranchised grieving is the term used to describe losses that are not fully appreciated or ignored by society. It is difficult to grieve in public, or at least acknowledge the loss.

Pets can be a source of comfort for older people who are often isolated. Budimir Jevtic/Shutterstock

The psychologists Robert Neiymeyer & John Jordan say that disenfranchised grieving results from a failure of empathy. Some people deny their own grief because they feel it’s shameful. It’s not just about maintaining a stiff upper lips in the office or the pub. Some people may think that pet grievance is not acceptable to their family members or the whole family.

There may also be a mismatch in the social expectations surrounding animal deaths and the level of grief that pet owners feel. Some people react with contempt when someone takes time off work to grieve a pet.

According to research, when people grieve over the death of a pet, they are more likely to experience disenfranchised feelings. This makes it harder for them to find comfort, growth post-traumatically, and healing. Disenfranchised grieving seems to restrict emotional expression, making it more difficult to process.

The relationship we have with our pets can be just as important as the one we share with others. Our grief is not less intense when we lose our pets. Pet grief has its unique dimensions that we must acknowledge. We can reduce suffering if we accept pet loss as a form of grief. After all, we’re just human.

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