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Guest Post: Grief: Unconditional Love and Loss

Updated: Oct 21, 2019

Dog and Cat Photo by Krista Mangulsone on Unsplash

When the time comes to say goodnight forever to our Animal Companions, it can be one of the most difficult losses we can go through in our lives.

Why does it hurt so much you may ask?

It might help you to think realistically about your relationship with your lost Animal Companion. The love you received from him/her was different than the complicated love relationships you might have with humans. Your Animal Companion likely adored you! He/she was always there for you, never criticised you, never held grudges, and always forgave you, no matter what.

For all this love, your Animal Companion expected no more from you than a good belly rub or ear-scratching, right? An Animal Companion can be the only source of pure, unconditional love that you will ever know. They winnow their way into your heart and become a trusted member of the family; a comforting presence in your intimate day-to-day life. A human acquaintance or relative that doesn't live with you just cannot impact your emotional life to that degree.

You also receive tactile comfort from an Animal Companion; touching, stroking, rubbing their fur, feathers or scales. You might even kiss or hug them and confide your deepest thoughts to them, knowing they will never betray your secrets. Your Animal Companion has probably seen you naked, in all your glory, and he/she never told anyone about your big belly or sagging behind!

Your Animal Companion likely expressed pure joy and excitement when you returned home after an absence. The likelihood is that not all the humans in your life will give you the unconditional love your Animal Companion gives to you. This creates a different and very strong emotional attachment, a comforting presence that is sure to be missed heartily.

As we know, grief is about loss and the grief that can be experienced through the loss of our Animal Companions can be so strong and that is because the love and bond is so strong with them. It's very common to grieve harder for the loss of an Animal Companion than the loss of some humans and that can because we can be so much closer to our Animal Friends. Grief can also be present if we have lost our Animal Companions in another way other than them passing away. Your Animal Companion might have got out of the back gate and you were not fortunate enough to find him/her, for personal circumstances you might of had to re-home your Animal Companion and this can also cause you to grieve.

Unfortunately sometimes with Pet Loss, the Grief can be what is called a Disenfranchised Grief which means that the loss is not always recognised by society. This is when you may hear the "it's just a dog or you can get another one or when are you going to get over this" comments. I put this down to that maybe people who think this have never been as privileged as us to receive this pure unconditional love and hopefully one day they will.

My reply to this is - "Grief is indifferent to the species lost - Grief is Grief and Love is Love".

I'm a Pet Loss Counsellor here in Melbourne and what I hear a lot form my clients and the professionals that I'm in contact with is that what many want is for their loss to be acknowledged and recognised. We want to be listened to without judgement.

What I would like to convey to everyone is that it's totally 110% ok to feel the way you do after your loss. You've lost a very much loved family member it will hurt.

Being through this heart break myself 18 months ago losing my very best friend, my Boxer, Buckley, I can really relate to what many people feel. Pet Loss can be a very lonely grief for some people as they can tend to hide away from their grief as there is a concern of what others may think and say.

Please, please don't worry what others will think or say because there are many people that do "get it".

I would like to offer a few of my tips......

  • Acknowledge your loss - know it's ok to feel the way you do.

  • Give yourself permission to grieve.

  • Let your emotions out, don't hold things in.

  • Journalling is a great way to download your thoughts.

  • Everyone will grieve in their own way and in their own time.

  • Don't put a time limit on your grief, grieve has no time limits.

  • Remove the pressure off yourself to feel a certain way.

  • Grief can affect us emotionally and physically, take care of yourself.

Losing a much loved family member can feel very final. Can I conclude by saying that "Death ends a life not a Relationship". Going through my own loss, I developed many coping strategies that I now use with others to help them to heal and recover. One thing I am very focused on is continuing the relationship. Is it the same as what we once knew no it's not but the "Key" thing that helped me is having a continued connection with my Buckley. Our love is living and he will always be my right hand man.

If you've lost your Animal Companion my sincere condolences to you, it's not an easy thing to go through. Healing and Recovery is most definitely possible, I'm living proof of that.

Please know there is a lot of support out there for Pet Loss, you do not have to go through this heart break alone.

You can find Renee Magri at the following:

Forever in my heart Logo

Images from Unsplash

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