Losing a pet is something that no one wants to have to go through. However, with people having much longer lifespans than our canine companions, it is a reality of life. We work with many clients who have decided to get a custom pet sculpture as a way to remember their dogs who have passed away. Thus, we wanted to provide some information about the grieving process for those going through this experience.
While each person experiences grief in different ways, research by psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross has found that grief tends to go through five distinct stages. These stages tend to occur when people experience loss in many ways including the loss of relationships, loved ones, or pets.
The first stage in the process of grief that is typically experienced is denial. This is actually an important stage for being able to make it through the beginning of a loss. People in this stage may feel that the world does not make sense or has no meaning. It is common to feel numb. This can occur when the loss happens or when you get news about an imminent loss, such as finding out that a pet has little time left.
In this stage, people live in a bit of an alternate reality in order to help them better cope with the grief. While this may seem negative, it is actually an important process and a natural defense mechanism. Once the denial stage starts to pass, the healing process is able to begin.
Denial is typically replaced by anger, which makes sense when you think about what is occurring. When you begin to accept what has occurred, it can be common to feel like bad things are happening to you specifically. Depending on the situation, you may feel a little or a lot of anger.
Suppressing these feelings is not healthy. This is a natural response and talking about it can be quite useful. Suppressing the anger can also lead to this stage lasting longer than it would otherwise; thus, finding a healthy outlet for it can be very effective in moving through the grieving process.
The third stage of the process is bargaining. In this stage, people will often subconsciously convince themselves that they can avoid grief through bargaining. This is particularly common in situations where people receive news of an upcoming loss.
For example, someone finding out that their pet is sick and likely won’t live much longer might try to bargain with reality. This is the stage where “what if” statements can often enter the fray. For example, what if I would have done x, y, or z? This could have been avoided.
The depression stage of the process is not meant in the same nature as clinical depression. Rather, it expresses a period of immense sadness. This tends to occur when someone admits that the loss cannot be avoided. During this stage, people may withdraw more from normal life than usual.
This stage is often associated with feelings of numbness, not wanting to get out of bed, or feeling like you are living in a fog. It can be common to want to distance yourself from others. This stage will typically pass, although it can take longer for some than others.
The final stage of the Kubler-Ross process is acceptance. In this stage, you begin to re-engage with reality and envision moving on with life with the loss experienced being part of it. This does not mean you are no longer sad. Rather, you are not so overcome with sadness that it overly affects your day-to-day ability to function.
During the acceptance stage, remembering your loss in a positive way can help. You understand your loved one or companion cannot be replaced, but you are able to move and evolve.
Losing a pet is never an easy experience but understanding the grief process can help people to move through it. For those wanting to remember their pets, our custom pet sculptures are great choices for immortalizing your loved dog for the rest of time.