Processing grief takes time and looks different for everyone. Things like counseling and support groups are there to help you understand the stages of grief and how to manage those feelings. Pets can be also be surprising ally in our grief process. Their companionship can provide comfort and support while you’re coping with a loss.
Pets not only provide comfort, they also help improve overall mental and physical health. Petting an animal increases serotonin and dopamine levels in our brain, which improves our mood by lowering stress, anxiety and depression. It also lowers blood pressure and helps with feelings of loneliness, which could be the case after you have lost a loved one. Pets can improve overall happiness just by offering a positive and consistent relationship.
Some people prefer solitude while coping with grief, while others find comfort in the company of others. Seeking face-to-face support can be a healthy step in coping with grief, but support offered by a pet that doesn’t require the same expectations that human interaction does can be helpful as well.
Dogs are not the only pets that excel as companion animals for support; many other types of animals offer the same type of feelings of reassurance. Cats can be especially helpful, due to their independent nature, when normal everyday responsibilities feel cumbersome and overwhelming. Studies show a cat’s purring can create a calming effect helping to ease the emotions brought on by grief. Dogs also make great companions, but in many cases, they require a lot more from you than a cat does. On one hand that can be a good thing: a dog can help push you to get up and about and dogs can give you sense of purpose knowing that you have someone depending on you.
Experiencing grief is something that is hard to understand until you have gone through it. Numerous people who have gone through the stages of grief have credited their animals with being a positive influence in their experience. There are many types of animals that can provide emotional support in different ways, but nothing is quite as impactful as the unconditional love they have for their owner.