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ISU Student Experience

Social Stigma of Pet Loss and Grief

The topic of pet loss and grief, in our society, is a topic many are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with. This goes for those experiencing either the current loss of a pet or the grief coming from a terminal diagnosis or after a death, as well as those who are not or have not experienced this loss and grief. There are certain beliefs and thoughts the majority of our society believe about losing a pet and the grief which accompanies any loss. This majority belief reinforces, in all of us, the inappropriateness of grieving a pet completely.

The social stigma surrounding the grief of losing a pet may hinder someone working through this grief, and increase the likelihood of becoming stuck in grief. The stigma involved with pet loss and grief can deter people from seeking help or confiding with people they trust; which is how many work through the accepted situations of grief. This outlook on pet loss and grief also is evident in the workplace. There are no days off when one loses a pet, and most places will not understand if someone is weepy or not functioning to their full potential, which are typical experiences of any grieving.

Many of you reading this understand this social stigma and what it means for you in regards to your ability to show your grief and how this impacts your ability to move through the stages of grief. I would like you to take away one important thought from this post, which is; Grief is grief and you are allowed to grieve the loss of your pet. I know this is not reinforced in our society and many close to you may not even support the previous statement. If you are experiencing grief surrounding the loss of your pet, no one has a right to tell you to “get over it” – which is something you may or may not have heard previously. The problem with accepting this social outlook is the fact that you are more likely to be unable to move on if you don’t grieve the loss properly and appropriately.

We will continue talking about the grief process, and how to avoid getting stuck, and what this means for you. If you take nothing else away from this post (hopefully you got the first message!) please know you need to be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to feel what you are going through, don’t allow friends or colleagues to tell you it is not okay to feel sad and grieve. These feelings simply mean you loved deeply and cared for your friend and family member.


-- John Bisenius, M.S., TLMHC

Our guest blogger, John Bisenius, TLMHC, facilitates Iowa Veterinary Specialties' monthly Pet Preparation and Loss Support Group (Pet PALS Group). The views represented in this post are not those of Iowa Veterinary Specialties. John pulls from his experience working with grief and his work in the field of mental health.

For more information about the free, monthly meeting you can visit our Grief Support Page.

Published on October 4, 2016

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