Ask Dr. Z
By Laura Zipris, Psy. D., LMHC
Dear Dr. “Z”,
Last week my dog (my baby), Bosco, died and I am not doing too well. I have had Bosco for over 14 years, which is most of my adult life, and I don’t know what to do without him. Every minute that I am home I am haunted by this deafening silence. When I am not home, I just feel lost, as if I am just going through the motions of my day. I took two days off of work last week because I was so distraught and the people in my life were being supportive. However, now that it is a week later, friends and co-workers think I am just being ridiculous because I am still struggling. I get comments like, “Diane! Enough already, he was just a dog.” I am starting to feel like there is something really wrong with me, aside from just being completely and utterly heartbroken.
Diane M., Lake Worth
Let me start by saying, I am so sorry for your loss. Losing a beloved pet can be a profound and very deep loss. For many people, it is the equivalent to losing a cherished family member…a family member who has been a constant companion and a source of unconditional love and daily support for us. Therefore, it is less than helpful when well meaning people try to minimize your loss by saying “Bosco was just an animal.”
One of the difficulties in our culture is that we often feel alone when experiencing our grief, “feeling as if there is something wrong with us” ; feeling like we are “losing it” or “going crazy;” “not knowing what to do” or how we “should” be feeling and coping with our loss. It is important that you know a few things about grief. First, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. All of your feelings are OK. There is no one right way to grieve and there is no specific time frame for it. Second, grief is a very personal journey and it is experienced by people in very different ways. Reactions to grief vary from person to person but often they involve our feelings (i.e. sadness, anger, and loneliness), thoughts (i.e. preoccupation, confusion) behaviors (i.e. changes in our sleeping patterns and appetite) and physical sensations (i.e. hollow feeling in stomach, tightness in chest).
In order to heal from this loss you have to grieve it. Some useful ways to cope with your grief and express your feelings safely include: journaling, playing music; exercising; running; calling a friend; joining a support group; praying and memorializing your pet (i.e. have a funeral, write an obituary, donate his things, create a photo album of your time together, etc.).
Time usually does heal, but if after a few weeks of trying some of these coping strategies, you are still not feeling any better, you may wish to speak with a professional grief counselor.
“You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.”
(Robert Louis Stevenson)
Laura Zipris holds a doctorate in Psychology and is licensed to practice psychotherapy in New York, as well as in Florida. Laura is certified in Imago Relationship Therapy, a transformational approach that has been used successfully with couples around the world to help them to strengthen their partnerships, deepen their connection and reignite their passion for one another. Laura sees individuals of all ages and sexual orientations, couples, families, and groups in her office located in Delray Beach. For more information about Laura, please visit her website at www.drlaurazipris.com or to set up an appointment, contact Laura directly at (561) 558-7815.
Questions for this column should be sent to “Dr. Z” at Drlaurazip@gmail.com.