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Grieving a pet is lonely

There's something uniquely personal about losing a pet that is different than a human. As humans we touch a lot of people throughout our lives. We have parents, sometimes siblings, aunts and uncles, best friends, colleagues and significant others. When we die, there are a lot of people who feel the loss (some greater than others). There are people you can grieve with because they too are hurting the same way. It's not really that way when you lose a dog (or cat).

Ares - my super dog

Our dog is uniquely ours. They grow with us, move with us and are loved, almost exclusively, by us. When they leave this earth, the loss is felt by a much smaller group of people - sometimes just one person because that pet, while it may have encountered others, has a unique individual bond with its owners.

This means the grief is quite lonely. I found myself so very sad over the holidays, I was in excruciating inner pain. Ares was a part of me and he was no longer here. Others, perhaps even my spouse, couldn't quite feel what I was feeling. And it's hard to tell others who don't have that connection just how much pain you are in - they don't understand because they can't. They don't feel that loss - not even those closest to us because their relationship with the pet we loss is indirect. It's not personal for them.

I will say one glimmer of light for me in my grief is the Facebook group I am part of - the Happy Endings family, or HE family. We are all animal lovers who found one another following along the journey of a dog named Rogue. What is so unique about this group in addition to the unmatched support we give one another in hard times of pet loss (and good times of puppy photos, too) is that we are currently grieving the loss of Rogue together.

Rogue and Bryce

You see many of us discovered Rogue when he was posted to a GSD Facebook group as URGENT - he needed to get out of a shelter before he was euthanized. Many of us shared him on our personal pages hoping he found someone to save us. Then, all of a sudden he was rescued by a man named Bryce. Rogue was underweight with serious issues in his legs from being kept in a cage that was too small for him. In springing Rogue, Bryce started the Happy Endings Facebook group so many of us could follow Rogue's journey. This was six years ago.

Hundreds of us immediately joined Happy Endings to follow Rogue's journey, and hundreds more later joined. We watched Rogue blossom into part of a family. Photos and stories of Rogue and his family were shared over the course of six years. We all shared our own stories, happy moments, funny anecdotes and pet loss too. We lost members along the way and sometimes we took breaks for weeks or months at a time but Rogue and his family were always there and we all always found a way back.

We lost Rogue this week and something quite unique happened. People from all over the world were grieving his death. We grieved him together, like we do humans. While it was incredibly hard to lose him, it feels less lonely than grieving another pet. We have been sharing kind words and recognizing the grief within each other - feeling it, not quite the way Bryce is feeling it, but experiencing loss together.

I don't imagine this happens often when we lose pets so in a way it's something so special despite it being associated with something so awful and permanent. I felt compelled to share this in hopes that I can bring others solace who grieve the loss of their pet alone. Just know you are every bit justified in your grief and that, if hundreds of people knew your dog (or cat) the way you knew them, they too would grieve.

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