Pet loss must be validated as legitimate cause for grief

Each time I come across a website designated to offering support and comfort to those who grieve the loss of a loved one, I am most pleased because human beings are at their best when both reaching out to others for help and reaching out to others to offer help.

However, I more seldom find grief sites that offer that compassion to those of us who have lost a beloved companion animal. Check your own prejudices here. Did your mind instantly go to the too-typical response, "What's the big deal? It was only a dog/cat/hamster, etc. You can just go get another one at the pound. It's nothing compared to losing a human being!"

This phenomenon is one I, in my work as an animal chaplain and author of "Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss," have termed "Loss Snobbery." It's almost as if people set up a pain scale and ascribe more "pain points" to their own loss —whatever it may be—than to someone else's.

I lost my mother, stepdad, uncle, dog, two cats, cockatiel and 15-year marriage over a few years' time. Do I "win" by sheer number of losses? Ridiculous. Grief is grief; it's not a competition.

What's more, consider those of us who are profoundly bonded to our companion animals. Take, for instance, the senior citizen who is isolated, having no family to visit and watching his or her human friends pass away one by one. Can anyone honestly say that, if a scruffy little dog is the senior's one and only faithful friend and constant companion, that person will not deeply and intensely mourn that pooch's death? For that senior, the loss of a pet is likely to be emotionally devastating.

One doesn't have to be socially and/or physically isolated from humans, however, to cherish the unconditional love and affection he or she receives from a pet. No one has the right to imply the grief we feel over the loss of a furry, feathered or even finned family member is inconsequential to us.

You don't have to share the same emotion or circumstance to acknowledge another person's right to feel whatever it is he or she feels. I don't have children, for instance, and can therefore never feel the acute loss a parent must feel when a child dies, yet I would never for a second consider telling that parent to "just go adopt a new one."

And for those of us who are animal lovers, it only stands to reason that the death of a companion animal with whom we may spend 24/7 will leave a bigger hole in our life than when a distant relative we haven't seen in years passes on. Everywhere we look in our homes is another place our heart tells us that pet should still be. And consider how much harder it is to heal that pain when so much of society withholds permission from us to grieve.

I urge you to open up your site to include a section for pet loss and consider me its first member.

Sincerely,
Sid Korpi
www.goodgriefpetloss.com

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