Many people on suffering pet grief over the loss of a pet, find themselves overwhelmed by their feelings.
In many cases they begin to question their sanity and wonder if what they are feeling is normal or whether they are over reacting.
Baby and Monkey - both at Rainbow Bridge
The purpose of these pages and in fact this entire website is to remind and reassure everyone that the feelings you will experience or are experiencing over the loss of a pet are perfectly normal and to be expected.
Working through your grief will help you to get ever closer to the day when you are able to remember your pet with a smile even if there is still a tear in your eye for a while.
The reactions to and 'symptoms'of pet grief vary from person to person but many are common to everyone who suffers the loss of a pet. Grief and pet loss can sometimes be complicated by other factors which I will write about later on, but generally pet death grief can cause the following reactions:
The symptoms of pet grief can include:
- a feeling of helplessness
- relief (especially if a pet has been sick for some time)
- guilt at feeling relief
- feeling abandoned and alone
- feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
- impulsiveness coupled with indecision
- feeling the need to apologise for your words or actions or lack of words or actions
The physical symptoms of pet grief can include:
- Pain in the chest which many people describe as 'heartache'
- Muscle weakness
- Aches and pains
- Flu like symptoms
- Oversensitivity to touch and/or sound
- A dry mouth which makes it harder to speak and express your feelings
- Exhaustion and lethargy
- A hollow feeling in the stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the throat and chest and feeling unable to speak
- Hyperactivity - a feeling that you have to get on with something
- A sense of disappearing or ceasing to be a personally involved as everything happens around you
The common thoughts of grief pet loss can include:
- Finding yourself unable to focus on anything except the pet you have lost
- Confusion - not knowing what to do, what day it is, where you should be
- Feeling as though your pet is still with you - you may hear them, sense them or even see them
- Feeling guilty
- Inability to concentrate or complete simple tasks
- Fearing for the safety of your remaining pets or family
The common behaviours of pet grief can include:
- Not being able to sleep or sleeping excessively
- Picking up and carrying objects - usually those related in some way to the pet you have lost, but not always
- Comfort eating, eating too much or too little which leads in turn to weight gain or weight loss
- Momentarily forgetting your pet is gone and looking for them or calling out for them for example at what would normally have been their dinner or walk times
- Crying and sobbing or not crying and sobbing even if you feel you want to
- Becoming socially withdrawn, or if you are usually quite a solitary person you may find yourself suddenly desperately seeking company in order to avoid being alone to think
- Hyperactivity - you may find yourself obsessively cleaning or doing the housework or other activities you may usually avoid
- Treasuring reminders of your pet - simple things may suddenly have greater significance, hair on a brush for example
- Vividly dreaming of your pet and awaking in the morning momentarily confused by your dream and forgetting they are gone
- You may find yourself instinctively removing all reminders of your pet (if you do feel like this it is a good idea to put them away in a box out of sight - you may find you want them to treasure later on)
- Feeling the need to revisit places you visited with your pet
- Feeling unable to deal with normal day to day activities - you may feel numb and spend time just sitting and staring
- Losing interest in what you perceive to now be 'trivial' things and having a lack of interest in the 'aimlessness' of life
- Feeling the need to constantly apologise for your feelings or actions
- Over sensitivity - you may find yourself picking fights for example with people who may have made insensitive comments about your pet in the past. Innocent comments may seem to you to be deeply hurtful and thoughtless even if they were not intended that way.
- Feeling like everyone else is talking about and caught up in 'trivial' and meaningless things whilst you are left to cope alone
- Feeling the need to run away and hide, especially slamming doors behind you (even if only metaphorically)is quite common
You may find yourself experiencing some of these reactions or others unique to your situation, but remember these are only guidelines and 'typical' reactions and you should not feel any expectation or obligation to feel any or all of them.