Humans and animals have relied on each other for hundreds of years. We’ve kept dogs as companions for centuries, used horses to travel, used cows and goats and sheep for food.
When we form a truly deep bond with an animal, that creates a meaningful space in our lives. And when that bond is lost after the death of an animal, you have to deal with the loss of that bond to help understand your grief.
What is the Human-Animal Bond?
The human-animal bond is a dynamic, mutually beneficial relationship between humans and animals. Much like our relationships with other humans, this bond is influenced by behaviors and actions that involve both halves of the relationship.
Humans have benefited from this relationship for hundreds of years. Whether it’s pets, farm animals, or any other kind of animal, the bonds we forge with our animal companions have fostered our physical wellbeing and promoted psychological growth.
We rely on our animals and they, in turn, rely on us. It’s a bond based on shared trust and understanding.
It’s also critical for veterinary medicine, as a veterinarian must use the human-animal bond in the process of administering care to animals. Otherwise, animals won’t trust a veterinarian to tend to them.
How It Benefits Us
The human-animal bond mutually benefits both sides.
For animals, the benefit is obvious. They get food, shelter, medical care, love, and attention in exchange for their love and care.
Humans, in turn, receive a wide range of benefits from this bond. Pet owners, for example, often have lower stress because they can spend time with their favorite animal in the world. They also have physical benefits, if only because pet ownership encourages them to be more active and care for their animal.
Grieving and Honoring a Pet
The human-animal bond is also a critical part of the grieving process, and addressing the human-animal bond is essential in ministering to someone through their grief for a lost animal.
Losing an animal is a lot like losing a family member. The difference is that when you lose a family member, you’re given the opportunity to experience your grief in full. When a pet dies, you’re often met with insensitivity.
Understanding the human-animal bond and the mourning that must happen when that bond is lost is essential to understanding the loss of a pet.
Finding Hope After Loss
It is possible to find joy and strength after loss. No animal can replace the animal you’ve lost, but you can form equally meaningful bonds with another animal and still treasure the family member who is no longer with you.
If you’re struggling to overcome your grief for a lost pet, take the time to consider your bond with your pet and address the loss of the human-animal bond that you had. Processing that loss and learning to appreciate the joyful moments you had will help you find peace, in your own time.
And if you’re ministering to someone through their grief, make sure to address the relationship they’ve lost. Emphasize all the joy that they did have and remind them of how much their animal loved them in return.