The loss of a pet should never be underestimated.

Our pets are never "just" a dog or cat, but a valued and beloved member of the family. For that reason, it can be incredibly difficult to deal with your heartbreak while those around you remain seemingly bewildered by your loss.

When we lose a human member of our family, we're often entitled to bereavement leave, while the passing of a pet is often seldom acknowledged. What can be done to ease those difficult periods in your life?

With an estimated 50 million households in the U.S. having either a cat or a dog, it's safe to say that we're a nation of animal lovers. The grief that pet parents feel when their canine companion or feline friend passes can be insurmountable, and bereavement leave can provide the comfort we need at such a difficult time.

HR expert John Decoteau told CBS Local that more and more companies are seeing the benefits of offering paid leave when a pet passes away.

"As business leaders, people who work for you, they are members of your team… when people are in pain you want to help them," Decoteau said.

Imagine knowing that a company would support you in such a way, and you can see why it appeals to those looking for a job. Decoteau said that it becomes a “recruitment tool.”

For some, a cat or dog becomes a surrogate child, and it can be incredibly difficult to deal with the loss of a pet that spent so much time as part of your life. A 2009 study in Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, a journal, found that almost one-third of pet parents who'd lost a four-legged companion grieved for more than six months.

Companies that have added pet bereavement leave or a period of mourning, include VMware, Maxwell Health, the Klimpton Hotel Group, and Trupanion. Ben & Jerry's have previously said that they would allow employees to take time off should they need it.

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