During a divorce, you can feel drained. The arduous experience can drain your energy, leaving you fatigued and in need of help.
While professional help is an option that is highly encouraged, there are other ways of engaging in therapeutic activities. One of which is interacting with your pet.
For those that own a pet, they understand that this is a transitional period for their pet, as well. Depending on the custody situation with the pet, a pet may feel like they are losing an owner and may behave similarly to when an owner dies.
Pets and grief
Depending on the pet, the emotional tapestry may vary. For dogs, there are many anecdotes that support the idea that dogs grieve the loss of an owner, such as wailing at their funeral, tracking down their grave weeks after their death, and refusing to leave the cemetery.
Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary Barbara King has stated that the thousands of years of companionship have allowed humans and dogs to grow in tune with one another’s body language, emotions, and gestures.
She also found that like people, not all dogs, or cats for that matter, mourn. Concurrent research from Gregory Berns, director of the Emory Center for Neuropolicy said while it is difficult to determine whether these pets are experiencing grief, they are able to use their observational skills and witness emotions similar to that of loss.
During a divorce, the pet may display the behavior similar to that of grief. They can be sleeping more than usual. They can lose motivation in activities or daily walks. Their appetite may change. There are many outward behaviors that can indicate how your pet is reacting to the changing dynamic caused by a divorce.
Physical symptoms of divorce
For those that do not retain custody of their pets, they may experience some physical symptoms of their intense feelings, according to Psychology Today. There may be increases in anxiety and panic. In addition, the body may begin to sweat more often, in an attempt to return to homeostasis.
These symptoms can be due to the suffering of a broken heart, due to the loss of a pet during a divorce. According to the American Heart Association, “broken heart syndrome” is a real, physical response to a surge of stress hormones.
Owning a pet
Many would suggest getting another pet, in response. While a new pet will never be able to replace the loss of an old one during a divorce, it can help heal a broken heart.
Research from the American Heart Association has shown that owning a pet has been shown to benefit your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It can help lower your risk for a heart attack, reduce blood pressure and stress, and can lead to less medication and trips to the doctor.
Emotional benefits for children
The stress of dealing with divorce can be even worse if you are a child, caught in the crossfires of this challenging situation. Pets have a way of offering children unconditional love during a time when children are witnessing two pillars in their life fall out of love with one another and end their marriage. With how a child views love and relationships being in a precarious position, it can be important for them to have someone in their life, even if it is a pet, that loves them so selflessly.
They also provide a secure, confidant for children to talk to without the judgment or opinions of others. They listen without bias and are able to display the love and comfort that a child needs during this stressful time in their development.
From an emotional standpoint, pets can help distract you and your children from the challenges that divorce can entail. It gives you something to care for and encourages interaction with others. You may look to a pet to solve a lot of the problems that you may face during the divorce process, but they are not necessarily there for answers. They are there to love and be loved, a sentiment that can provide healing.