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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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No surprise to those who’ve been there: Losing a pet can hurt more than losing a fellow human

Research is proving that “just get over it” when it comes to losing a companion animal is simply not normal. So, if friends and family are telling you that … just ignore them. And if you're a friend or family member of someone who lost a pet, there are things you can do to help them through it.

Tomo McLoyd holds the paw of her dog Rocky, 14, as veterinarian Wendy McCulloch euthanizes the pet at their apartment on May 9, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

There are a number of reasons the death of a pet is as hard as—or sometimes, even worse than—losing a human.  


  • Pets are increasingly such close family members because we spend every day, sometimes all day, with them and, especially in their later years, we are the caregivers and providers. And they are frequently our alarm clocks, as well. 
  • Much of the time, it’s the first experience we have with a close death; even children who grow up with pets will likely see them pass before they go off to college.
  • Grieving for a family member or friend is socially acceptable, and people generally don’t tell us to “just get over it” or offer to find a new substitute like they do with pets.
  • Euthanasia is usually the end-of-life choice for older pets, and that’s also something outside the “normal” human experience, because that just isn’t done with humans.

There’s also the 'love hormone' known as oxytocin, which is released when humans stare into each other’s eyes, or when parents look at their children. A 2015 study found that dogs and humans both experience increased oxytocin levels when they look into each others eyes.

“I’m sure if you did the study with other animals it would be the same,” says Cori Bussolari, a psychologist at the University of San Francisco, reasoned.

The social stigma

Wendy Packman, a psychologist at Palo Alto University, refers to the social stigma around grieving a pet as "disenfranchised grief." 

“With disenfranchised grief is there is less support, and the grief can be even worse than for a person because there are no rituals, and when people do go out and do a ritual, when they feel brave enough, they can be ostracized.” 


Steve Culver cries with his dog Otis as he talks about what he said was the, 'most terrifying event in his life,' when Hurricane Harvey blew in and destroyed most of his home (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

How can you help?

Be a listening friend or family member, acknowledge their grief, and don't try to minimize it or dismiss it as trivial. 

Packman sums it up: “The reality is that the more we talk about grief, the more we normalize grief.”

Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

Credit: Neom
Technology & Innovation
  • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
  • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
  • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
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Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

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  • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
  • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
  • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

COVID-19 brain study to explore long-term effects of the virus

A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.

Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.

Coronavirus
  • The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
  • Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
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Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation

Better reskilling can future-proof jobs in the age of automation. Enter SkillUp's new coalition.

Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.

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