“They were part of the family” – a look at grieving for a pet online.
Stephanie Owens, Cochrane and Dying Matters
The death of a pet is often the first experience many of us will have. Many people feel that the death of a pet or animal and the subsequent grief will be seen as less valid due to the fact that it is not a person, but they are often seen as part of the family, and they are – in some cases – a valuable companion for those who live alone.
Seeing a pet or animal die through a digital medium has been around for quite some time. The tamagotchi in the 90s for example, allowed children to care for a digital pet that eventually “died”, therefore teaching children about grief. In fact, in some places there are even graveyards and memorials for tamagotchis. Similarly, there have been simulations in video games where animals die, Instagram famous animals that die and are mourned by their fans, and other social media outlets for people to share the loss and love of a beloved pet. An example of this was during the 2019 Dying Matters campaign where the dedicated day to pet loss was the most popular day, with hundreds of people submitting photos and memories of beloved animals who had died.
This seminar will look at how grieving for a pet is valid and how social media and digital platforms can help people understand this and provide a safe space for people to share their experiences of loss.
Stephanie Owens is passionate about all things death and dying and has worked on six Dying Matters Awareness Week campaigns, providing information and support for people who are bereaved and who are at the end of their lives. She has been instrumental in it’s success and implemented the themed days during Dying Matters Awareness Week in 2017 and it has run ever since. She oversaw the pet grief day in 2019 and saw the real need for more understanding and discussion around this topic. She currently works in community support for Cochrane and is an independent researcher into end of life issues and grief in neurodivergent people.
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