Or so says Louis C.K. Parents, after all, rarely expect to outlive their children – but most pet owners acknowledge on some level that they will probably live to see their animals pass away. Still, many of us sincerely regard our pets as family. How, then, do we cope with the loss of these loved ones?

Top photo by justmakeit via flickr

On her blog at National Geographic, Virginia Hughes has cobbled together an assortment of scientific studies about losing our pets. Her piece is a collection of thoughts, really. It's raw – in a beautiful, unprocessed sort of way – and keenly personal; on Tuesday morning, Hughes' 17-month-old dog was struck and killed by a car.


That same day, writes Hughes, she was looking up studies about losing a pet, "because this is what I do." She continues:

There were more studies than I expected... and what the studies reported was more comforting than I expected. So I figured it might be helpful — both for my mental health and for any of my readers who are going through something similar — to write some of it down.

What she's put together manages to be as heartbreaking as it is, however improbably, consoling. The section on "disenfranchised grief" suggests to me that Hughes' piece will resonate particularly strongly with those who have lost a pet, (I know it did for me):

In 1989, grief expert Kenneth Doka wrote that pet loss (like perinatal death and induced abortion) is a type of "disenfranchised grief," meaning that the griever's relationship with the deceased, and therefore, the griever's grief, is not sufficiently recognized by other people. Pets, unlike people, are not publicly mourned, which means that grievers don't get the social support they need to recover.

I'm grateful that that hasn't been the case for us. After sharing what happened on Facebook, we received a flood of supportive messages, emails, and flower deliveries. It has meant the world to us to know that other people know how much we loved him, and understand that this is a real loss.


Read the rest over at National Geographic.

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