Types of Grief associated with Pet Loss.
One of the main things that I think is important to be aware of when we are working through a loss is to have a good understanding of the Grief you are experiencing and what that Grief means. If we don't know what our Grief means how are we supposed to work through it? It can make it more challenging when we have no idea why we feel the way we do.
Having the knowledge of why you feel the way you do is one of the 'Key' aspects of creating the Foundation of your recovery and healing. All types of Grief can present with their own individual challenges, but with the right support and guidance they can all be worked through in your own way and in your own time.
Here's some of the types of Grief that can be experienced with Pet Loss.
Contrary to what the name might suggest, there really are no set guidelines to define normal grief in terms of timelines or severity of grief. Instead, think of normal grief as any response that resembles what you might predict grief to look like (if that makes sense!). Many people define normal grief as the ability to move towards acceptance of the loss. With this comes a gradual decrease in the intensity of emotions. Those who experience normal grief are able to continue to function in their basic daily activities.
➡Anticipatory grief - Before the Loss:
Grieving can start long before the loved one you are caring for actually passes way. Anticipatory grief often starts when the loved one you are caring for gets a significant diagnosis and their health begins to deteriorate. Feelings are related to the loss of what was or what you thought life was going to be like. It can be difficult to speak with others about anticipatory grief because your loved one you care for is still alive and you may have feelings of guilt or confusion as to why you are feeling this kind of grief.
➡Complicated grief (traumatic or prolonged)
Complicated grief refers to normal grief that becomes severe in longevity and significantly impairs the ability to function. Other contributing factors in diagnosing complicated or prolonged grief include looking at the nature of the loss or death (was it sudden? traumatic?), the relationship, life experiences. Some warning signs that someone is experiencing traumatic grief can include: self-destructive behaviour, deep and persistent feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, violent outbursts, or radical lifestyle changes.
➡Disenfranchised grief: The Loss not being recognised or acknowledged.
Disenfranchised grief can be felt when someone experiences a loss but others do not acknowledge the importance of the loss in the person’s life. Others may not understand the importance of the loss or they may minimize the significance of the loss. This is very common in Pet Loss as sometimes mourners are not given the recognition and acknowledgement by family and friends of their loss. Things like "it's just a dog, you can get another cat" can be said.
➡Cumulative grief - More than one loss.
This type of grief can occur when multiple losses are experienced, often within a short period of time. Cumulative grief can be stressful because you don’t have time to properly grieve one loss before experiencing the next. This can happen in Pet Loss when you lose one Forever Friend and then in a short space of time you can lose another.
➡Ambiguous loss -When a Pet is lost (runs away) or if they have been stolen from you.
Ambiguous loss is a loss that occurs without closure or understanding (the not knowing). This kind of loss leaves a person searching for answers, and can complicate and stretch out the process of grieving. This can make the grieving process more challenging as there are many facets to this type of grief.
If you feel like your loss or impending loss is taking over and you need extra support, please reach out, whether that's to your family and friends or other support services like Grief Support Groups or seeing a Pet Loss Counsellor, there are many things that can be done to help and support you during this difficult time.