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What we can learn from our pets

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March 13, 2020

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So, Spot’s finally bit the dust? Condolences. We’re the first to point out that death is a natural path of life. That being said, we also know that nasty sting when it’s a beloved family pet. Nowadays we’re pretty much desensitised to watching humans die on-screen. However, if anything happens to an animal, most of us transform into snivelling wrecks. There’s even a website called that helps you avoid movies and TV shows where animals die. (*Spoiler alert* – Marley & Me has no heartwarming resolution in the third act).

Some people may think that this avoidance of the inevitable is a tad much, and we may be inclined to agree. Here, we’ll take a look at the lessons we can learn from human grief resulting from the death of a pet.

Own your grief

As a nation famous for both its emotional constipation and love of animals, the death of a pet puts us Brits in a pretty awkward position. Traditionally, we’re not expected to grieve for a pet like we would for a person. This can make the process even more difficult, since we may feel as though we have to justify the depth of our grief. Some may raise their eyebrows at someone sobbing over a dead goldfish but who are they to underestimate such an attachment?

Let’s be real, many people are muppets. Our pets, on the other hand, give us the kind of loyalty and unconditional love that we rarely see in our fellow man. That’s a tough thing to lose, so don’t allow your feelings to be written off as silly or over-sentimental.

What we’re trying to say is, do what you need to do. Want to hold a furry funeral for Fluffy? Go for it. Want to send Nibbles down the U-bend on his own little Viking funeral? Crack on. Want to immortalise Taffy with taxidermy? Hey, who are we to say you shouldn’t.  Take inspiration from this Dutch artist who believe turning his dead cat into a drone was a fitting tribute to his late friend. (The airborne cat was rather aptly named Orville).

It’s not your fault (hopefully)

When we lose a pet, we don’t just lose a companion, we also lose someone who was our ‘responsibility’. Getting over guilt can, therefore, be a big part of the grieving process. This particularly applies to when you make the decision to put a pet ‘to sleep’. Unless you’re a megalomaniac – you probably didn’t relish having to make this decision. We want to hold out hope that our pet will pull through, but deep down we often know it’s the kindest thing to do. Finally, and we hate admitting it, but the vets are bloody expensive. Turns out you can put a price on a pet’s life if it’s an extortionately high one.

When a pet dies, it’s natural to be plagued by ‘what-if’ scenarios. What if I’d kept the cats house-bound? What if I recognised the dog was unwell just a few days sooner? What if I’d just forked out that extra few grand? Owning your emotions is a big part of the grieving process. However, you’re not going to move on if you’re constantly racked with guilt. Unless you were the one that ran Trixy over, then by all means beat yourself up.

Honey, I traumatised the kids

Death is probably one of the most uncomfortable subjects to talk to kids about. It’s up there with the ‘special hug’ and the fact that Father Christmas isn’t real. Deep down, no-one wants to be the parent who makes their kid aware of the concept of mortality. They’re also likely to have a whole bunch of questions, most of which will be unanswerable – “Where do we go when we die?”, “Are you and Daddy going to end up in the ground with Fido?”, “Will we flush grandad down the toilet when he dies too?”, you get the picture.

Parents have developed quite a few tricks to avoid telling the kids that the family pet has died. Did they run away? Did they go and live on a farm that has an incredibly strict door policy? Don’t even get us started about trawling around pet shops for a good ol-fashion switch. Take the opportunity to be honest and let the kids know what they’re going to learn about anyway. Another bit of advice – don’t say they ‘went to sleep forever’. This will probably scramble their brains and make bedtime a nightmare.

Each kid will grieve for a pet differently. For instance, they may want a funeral. You can eulogise about all the fond memories cleaning up poo while your child was busy playing Fortnite. For some kids, the prospect of a new puppy will help them move on in a flash (yes… fickle). Others may need more time before they can expect a new companion to fill the void. Regardless, the family will learn some important lessons about grief that will last a lifetime.

At DeadHappy, we want to encourage honest and open conversations about death. This helps us provide life insurance that best meets the needs and requirements of normal people. Having a frank discussion about death means we can ensure that your wishes are respected. So, do you have a deathwish? Tell us what you want to happen after you die, and we can make it happen.