Last week, over 412,000 people liked a status on social media posted by LadBible, stating that studies show losing a dog is as hard as losing a loved one. In the comments, there were so many owners who had either recently or in the past experienced the loss and described it as ‘Brutal’.
Last year, I wrote a three-part series for Edition Dog Magazine about this subject as I qualified as a pet bereavement counsellor in 2022, and I wrote for Happiful Magazine about breaking 8 of the biggest myths society has created around this subject. After my soul dog, a black Labrador called Vader, passed away in 2018, I saw that there was a huge gap in regards to the truth about pet bereavement and how to begin dealing with the grief. It inspired me to try and close that gap, so in 2019 I began with creating two children’s books to help families come to terms with the loss of a furry family member and make it a less scary, empty thing. Once I finished my studies, I started my own therapeutic project called ‘Create to Heal’ — a creative therapy to deal with pet loss and bereavement-at the end of 2022 and dug deep for the first 8 months of 2023 to try and promote it, I unfortunately got minimal interest.
Why is it then that over 412,000 people on social media post alone express such intense, brutal heartbreak but no one is utilising therapies to heal from the grief? Why is no one talking about this serious implication to our mental health?
It has been proven many times that dogs and cats are a huge boost to our mental wellbeing. They gave us unconditional love, companionship, a routine, comfort and exercise. Of course, many dogs are being trained to be personal therapy dogs to help people with social anxiety and medical conditions to function in society. Lets think about someone who needs a dog for these reasons; They have built a bond and a codependency on their furry friend, they have trust, companionship, and routine and suddenly, their dog gets sick or worse, attacked. The results of this would be beyond devasting — these people would very likely to not only experience long-term grief and depression but also PTSD.
In the UK — and many other countries worldwide — there is no policy for leave due to pet bereavement as an employee from your employer unlike when a relative dies. There isn’t even an option for mental health support in this situation in a working environment. Yet, due to studies showing an improved working environment with dogs in offices, many employers have implemented the idea of office dogs to boost morale and give overall better wellbeing.
Why then do employers accept that our furry friends can boost morale and implement this but still do not feel comfortable making sure that employees get time away from work to grieve the passing of a furry family member? Profit? A lack of understanding? Maybe, perhaps, a little bit of both. When asked, many employers gave an excuse of ‘worries of employees taking advantage of the policy’ but surely this could be the case with any kind of bereavement? If you distrust your employees to this extent what kind of business environment are you creating in the first place?
Even with my professional knowledge, it has taken me the last five years since Vader passed to truly begin to accept and heal from the grief of his loss. He was there beside me through miscarriage, illness diagnosis, toxic relationships, relocations, wedding and pregnancies. I had that constant for ten years, helping me through some of the darkest and toughest years of my life and without him I felt more lost that I can fathom the words for. Crushed, destroyed, heartbroken…these words still don’t give the true impact of it. I genuinely haven’t felt the same since Vader passed away and there will always be a gap in my heart and soul that he used to fill.
If you would like to know more about pet bereavement or looking to take steps into healing after losing a furry friend, please do get in touch. It is something I will always advocate for and hope that one day soon, society starts to wake up to one of the biggest issues that impact our mental health.