Companion animals have become a source of social and emotional support, thereby fulfilling some unmet attachment needs of their owners. Studies have shown that losing a pet can rupture the human-animal bond, and that the marginalization of pet grief only exacerbates the situation, thus making a person psychologically vulnerable. Despite its prevalence, little is known about the unrecognized burden of pet loss in the Philippine context. With this, the current study utilized a qualitative approach in exploring the disenfranchised grief, guilt, and meaning making of selected Filipino bereaved cat and dog owners. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews from 6 participants who are 21-39 years old and have availed of pet cremation or biocremation (aquamation) services in Metro Manila. Through Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), it was revealed that the participants’ disenfranchised grief is a struggle between self-minimized as well as socially diminished grief. Moreover, guilt manifested in the participants’ shattered sense of commitment which made them feel responsible for their pet’s death. Also, the participants were able to make sense of the legacy behind their cat/dog’s death. Findings of this study will help mental health professionals acknowledge pet bereavement, as well as the importance of emotional validation in processing this stigmatized loss, so they can help bereaved pet owners cope with the psychological impact of pet loss by enfranchising or normalizing their grief.
Sandra Rose Cabredo, University of Santo Tomas Graduate School, Philippines
Joy Tungol, University of Santo Tomas, Philippines