Grief Severity after the Loss of a Pet
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An overwhelming number of households in the United States consist of at least one pet. It is not uncommon for individuals to consider their pets to be part of the family. However, when a pet dies, the grief experienced afterwards typically goes unrecognized; this is called disenfranchised grief. Much of the research conducted on attachment and grief severity after the loss of a pet has focused specifically on traditional pets (dogs and cats) and not on nontraditional pets (other than dogs and cats). The current study examined attachment levels and grief severity among individuals who had recently experienced the loss of a pet, traditional and nontraditional, due to death. The current study also examined whether the manner in which a pet died (expected or unexpected) would have any relationship with grief severity. Finally, the current study examined whether there was a relationship between gender, attachment levels, and grief severity. The results found that traditional pet owners were significantly more attached to their pets and that they experienced a stronger grief response than owners of nontraditional pets. The manner in which a pet died also had a significant relationship with grief severity, with unexpected deaths being significantly associated with greater grief severity. Also, there was no significant difference found between male and female participants’ attachment levels or grief severity. These findings help to fill the gap in the literature by examining both traditional and nontraditional pet owners.