Pets provide us great comfort in life and this therapist is explaining how we need to get better at acknowledging this fact.
If you've been deliberating on whether or not to get a pet, this is a sign that you should give it some more thought backed by research. Therapist and writer Josh Weed penned down his thoughts on the irreplaceable role pets play in our lives in an elaborate X post and pet lovers couldn't help but agree with every valid point he made. In the thread, he made it clear that our pets are more than just animals living in our homes. They are members of our family and deserve as much love, care and respect as any important human in our lives.
"One of the more surprising things I’ve learned in my years as a marriage and family therapist is that pets are more than just man’s best friend—most families see them as actual members of the family system. The thing that finally made me see it clearly was grief," Weed wrote. The therapist noted that there have been multiple instances when they would be working with a client and all of a sudden their entire progress would come to a standstill because of grief caused by the passing of a pet.
"Like full halt, unable to move forward, capital T trauma kind of stop. The grief was too real," he described. Grieving over pets caused numerous people to enter depressive episodes, Weed shared. He also noted that the death of his clients' pets affects them just like the loss of a primary family member. "It finally became clear what should have been obvious all along: our mammalian attachment to our pets feels like family bond attachments to many of us," Weed wrote.
Weed went on to note how our pets are not just our family members in a "cutesy, fun, meme-worthy way" but in an "actual stability-providing, ventral-vagal-secure, attachment enhancing way that we need to do better at acknowledging as a society." "I have seen pets be absolutely life-changing for clients who, for reasons of trauma or neurodivergence, did not have robust social or family networks as they tried to do therapeutic work," they explained in his post.
Weed then went on to call out how lightly most of society takes the death of a pet. "We give no latitude for the reality of pet-grief. We barely even recognize how shocking losing a pet can be—sometimes similar to the shock of losing any other family-attachment we see daily like a parent a sibling or a child—and we rarely give ourselves or others credit for the realness of the connection, concern for the level of impact of the trauma of loss, or the room and space and validation to properly mourn these significant attachment severances," he wrote.
I’ve seen clients who feel totally isolated be able to move into a state of stable and secure attachment with a pet— this allows their nervous system to continue exploring broader connections as they shift the internal narrative of their world as one of danger to one of safety(8)— Josh Weed (@The_Weed) November 6, 2023
It debilites us—the shock of loss.— Josh Weed (@The_Weed) November 6, 2023
It upends us.
Successful grieving of a pet is worked through the same way you would grieve anyone close to you: (10)
Toward the end, Weed wrote how he makes sure to ask his clients in therapy about having kids at home and then right after that, he makes sure to ask if they have any "animals in their family." "Faces light up when they get to share the names of these beloved beings in their life—when someone cares enough to ask," Weed recalled. "I always write down the names and the ages of these beloved pets and make special notes. Because I know that if one of these members of the family happens to depart during the course of our work, whatever we are doing will have to stop."
"And we will have to take time—sometimes several sessions, sometimes even more—to process a very real, very tender, very human (on our end) attachment wound at the loss of a connection that is both vivid and life-enhancing," he concluded. Many people shared their personal stories of grieving over their lost pet in the comment section.
So if you are someone who has ever wondered why your heart was so wounded at the loss of an animal, please just know, grief—sometimes at the level of a family member you see daily—is NORMAL when a pet does, at least from what I have observed clinically. (16)— Josh Weed (@The_Weed) November 6, 2023
@DirtandStardust quipped: "Our family dog, a Dalmatian, died 20 years ago. Today, whilst out riding my bike, I came across a man walking two Dalmatians. I found myself barking suddenly, just so I could look at them. Struck with grief, I then started crying; I miss our Pelé so much."
When my cat Odin passed on, I couldn't imagine the trauma I would experience from it. I still sometimes cry when I am alone, and it has been a year and a half. He was like a son to me. Animals are truly a part of the family. pic.twitter.com/CH1hK4J5wO— Ark (@ArchaeaZero) November 10, 2023
I lost my family dog Aggie about 2 months before I lost my grandfather. The depth of grief and pain was the same, and I felt ashamed to tell anyone that, but my family all felt the same way. She lived for 18 years. Love you and miss you sissy, I’ll see you in the promised land pic.twitter.com/i7l5DHDb9i— Winnie Online (@Wintonline) November 11, 2023
@ArchaeaZero shared a personal story and wrote: "When my cat Odin passed on, I couldn't imagine the trauma I would experience from it. I still sometimes cry when I am alone, and it has been a year and a half. He was like a son to me. Animals are truly a part of the family." @Joe9874321 added: "Pets are family members. It is good to remember and yes, even cry at the loss. If you still feel for them they are never truly gone."