Dana Hirn Mueller
Human and pet bereavement tend to have contrasting views as pet loss still has yet to be acknowledged and has caused some pet owners to grieve in isolation. This is commonly called disenfranchised grief. Bereavement can, in turn, involve a variety of symptoms such as loneliness, hope, and in most cases prolonged grief disorder. Given the substantial impact of loss as well as potential differences in perceptions of grief for different types of losses, the current study sought out to examine how perceptions of grief are impacted by the type of loss and coping style. Participants viewed an online survey which included one of four versions of a vignette depicting someone dealing with either loss of a pet or human family member and engaging in either healthy or unhealthy coping. Participants were randomly assigned to view one of the four vignette versions and then answer questions about the magnitude of the person’s grief, appropriateness of the reaction to the loss, and perception of coping style. Results suggest that the type of loss did not have a statistically significant effect on perception of magnitude of grief. Data did not support the hypothesis that there would be significant differences in perception of grief as a function of type of loss. In contrast, participants were able to recognize healthy vs. unhealthy coping styles. To address future research, interviewing participants about their own loss and coping styles may allow for a more holistic examination of how coping styles impact perceptions of grief over time.