The main thing to keep in mind about grieving over a pet is that it is very natural and healthy. In fact, if you find yourself not grieving when a beloved pet has died, that may be cause for alarm from a mental health perspective, experts say. This warning comes at a time when crying and grieving over a pet is slowly becoming less and less socially acceptable, a harmful trend many doctors and other professionals say. In fact, some critics of modern society have begun referring to the “disenfranchised griever” of pets. These are people who continue to practice healthy grieving over a pet but who are ostracized or belittled for doing so.
To help keep disenfranchised grieving over pets to a minimum, here are some tips that all of society can follow to help a grieving pet owner find his her way back to peace of mind.
First, you should resist the urge to chuckle at the idea of National Pet Memorial Day observed on the second Sunday each September by Pet Cemeteries across North America. More than a few comedians over the years have devoted some of their routines to cleverly questioning the need for pet cemeteries, pet caskets and even pet urns, and this sort of thing only helps isolate the disenfranchised griever. Rather than laughing at and making snide comments about those grieving over a pet, a healthier thing to do would be to take National Pet Memorial Day seriously. Why not send a friend a card or letter to let him or know that you think it is okay to grieve out loud over a lost pet.
Next, remember that grieving over pets has long been a part of our Western culture, and only recently has it become somewhat strange. In ancient Egypt, in fact, custom held that cat owners would shave their eyebrows upon the death of their beloved friend, and, in the case of dogs, they shaved their entire body. And, going back even further, we see that the legendary Homer even acknowledged that grief over pets is an important part of life. When Homer’s famous Odysseus returned home from his far flung voyage, the only being to recognize him immediately was his beloved dog Argos. Homer’s tale of the reunion between dog and man makes it clear that Odysseus had assumed he would never see his faithful friend again and had mourned him all throughout his journey. If arguably the bravest, most heroic figure in all of the history of Western literature can break down and grieve over a pet, then, surely, modern man should be eager to do the same as necessary.
Likewise, scientists have recently uncovered evidence that pets may actually mourn each other. Cats and dogs whose household companions have died have been shown in a few studies to exhibit notably more sluggish behavior in the absence of the “friend.” While the research is still very inconclusive on this topic, there is certainly evidence that warrants further investigation, and it seems possible that the age-old mystical idea that animals have feelings much the same as humans, may actually have some scientific backing.
In summary, the best way to be of service to someone who is grieving over a pet is to simply remember, yourself, that grieving over a pet is completely a natural process. In fact, it is the people who do not grieve over a pet who may have the most significant concerns.
If you have trouble remembering that idea, just pull out a video copy of the classic movie Old Yeller, and see if it does not make you cry every time.
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