We recently conducted one of our biggest ever deep-dives into why animal lovers buy our two main products on SquishyFacedCrew - our personalised pet shaped cushion and our custom cuddly toy. An area that I had never even thought of was divorce.
We polled over 10,000 animal loving customers to explore the reasons behind why you buy our products. We were well aware of bereavement and travelling away from home as being big reasons, but the sudden and gut wrenching separation triggered by a divorce, was a new one to me.
Take Hayley's story. Her and her husband of 20+ years had shared a gorgeous German Shepard. Their family unit had been tight, and their dog Maximus was a huge part of their family unit alongside their two girls. When Hayley's husband left their family unit, bravely 'coming out' in his 50's, he took Max with him to start his new life.
For Hayley, the sense of loss was comparable with bereavement. Unlike when you share custody of kids, where it's expected that ongoing shared access will be a key part of life moving on, there isn't the same expectation with pets. In this case, when Hayley's husband walked out, that was the last time she saw Max.
So often in the breakdown of marriages and relationships, pets and their owners are left with a sudden and often un-planned for separation.
No two divorces are the same, and it's easy to immediately think 'you'd know you were heading towards divorce, it can't be that much of a shock'. Sometimes, and in the case of Hayley, it is a shock and an ideal family life, pet included, gets shattered.
It's one thing for us humans when this happens, but quite another for the poor animals. One wonders what goes through their heads?
Losing a pet because of a break-up or divorce causes grief
As humans we can and we do grieve anything we lose, and that most certainly includes pets. I'd say our SquishyFacedCrew business exists, as sad as this is to admit, because of the grief felt by pet owners when they lose a pet.
Grieving is not, contrary to common belief, limited to physical death. Its an emotion linked to losing, which is why I put lose in bold above.
So in the scenario where your pet walks out with you rex-spouse in a breakup or divorce scenario, the emotion you are feeling is most definitely grief.
Psychologists talk of the 7 stages of grief - an emotional journey which you go on as you recover from breaking up with a loved one.
However often that roller coaster is actually heightened when a pet is involved. It is unlikely after all, especially if you are here reading this post, that your four legged friend (or any pet for that matter) was to blame for the divorce.
The family pet/s are innocent victims of the changing circumstances, and often case will be highly attached to both pet parents. Your ex may be evil, but Buddy will always have time for both of you. It is a fact of pet life.
Pets that you lose through divorce live on, as living reminders of the loss.
Death is a clinical end, a point of closure which commences a grieving process. When we lose a pet to a break-up, we lack that closure. We may even see social media posts of the pet from time to time, or bump into the ex taking the dog for a walk. Healing the open wounds caused by loss through a break-up is harder.
When our routines run into a trigger, something which reminds us of our lost four legged friend - we may experience a very strong emotional response.
For Hayley, removing these triggers was the only option. Moving on needed closure, so her dogs old toys and food bowl had to go. Sometimes to move on, we do need to draw a more concrete line in the sand.
Moving on from the loss of a pet
The intense moments we may feel shortly after breaking up and throughout the process of recovering and rebuilding ourselves can feel all-consuming and extremely raw.
Some people experience this loss to the extent that their body physically manifests pain. You quite literally can feel the pain of the loss. We may have increased anxiety and panic within these moments. These emotions are very hard and grinding on us, but we must remember that they're stages that we must work through, with the benefit of time, to heal.
As father time passes, you will come to realise that every moment spent with your dearly loved pet was a true blessing. The memories you built will last a lifetime but grief will come in phases, and you should be prepared for that. Grief can compound around further loss, or external triggers can act as reminders. These get fewer and further between, but grief is complex and individualistic
Should I get a reminder of my pet to aid my grief?
In Hayley's case, a SquishyFacedCrew 3D pillow brought some form of peace. It certainly didn't and never will replace the 'real thing' but letting Max sit on "his chair" again and have cuddles in the evening whilst watching the TV offers some solace.
That sense of finding solace came out a lot in our customer interviews.
For some people, buying a pillow in the shape of their pet or a custom cuddly toy is a terrific way to celebrate that pet and to bring a physical comforter to cuddle and remind them.
For others, such an action would be too much. It would trigger them. It would make the raw emotions stoke up and it wouldn't help - this can be the case earlier in the process.
If you do and did buy one of our products to celebrate a pet and help to get over grief in any form, we would love to hear your story.