Grieving animal lovers can now call a national hotline that has been set up to connect people with qualified and experienced counsellor who can help them cope with their loss.

Currently there are 10 service counsellors based across Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Dr Michael O’Donoghue established the service so that people could call 1300 431 450, 24 hours a day and talk to a specialised pet loss counsellor about the loss of any kind of companion animal.

Calls are answered by a receptionist 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and transferred to a suitable counsellor if there is one available on the line, othwerise the caller will be contacted by return phone within 24 hours.


Read more:

IMAGE: Senior News Brisbane – June 2017



A loss of a pet is still a loss.

05/04/2017 9:22 PM AEST |

The author’s dog, Sapp, who loved going for rides and running on golf courses.

“U want to cancel bc ur dog back home died? Haha.”

A few months after I moved to New York in 2013, I learned that my beloved childhood yorkie, Sapp, passed away. I was supposed to go on a date that night ― my first one ever since moving to the city ― and I felt like I just couldn’t handle it. That was the text I got in response to suggesting we reschedule.

I went on the date because I felt bad inconveniencing him. (Ah, young Lindsay. Still had so much to learn.) Part of me hoped that it would be a good distraction. When I got there, I was met with more condescension about my emotions.

Unsurprisingly, the dude didn’t last. But the impact of his dismissive attitude ― which made me feel like I was ridiculous for being sad over my pet ― did. And it wasn’t until a few months later that I actually processed (and cried) over Sapp being gone.

A simple Google search for “pet grief” yields millions of results, proof that many people mourn the loss of a pet. The theme even permeates pop culture: Books and movies have long explored what happens when our beloved dogs predecease us, from classics like “Old Yeller” and “Lassie” to newer tales like Marley and Me and A Dog’s Purpose.

But people can still report feeling embarrassed for grieving a furry friend, especially when others make insensitive comments.

Let’s make one thing clear: There’s nothing frivolous about being in mourning. It’s a lesson I wish I’d understood then. Pets can be just as important as human family members and losing them can be devastating.

Research suggests that human beings feel connected to their furry friends and they feel bonded to us, too. So it makes sense that we feel the magnitude of their passing when they’re gone.

“We need to be more sensitive to pet loss and the grief surrounding it,” grief expert Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education and chair of the American Psychotherapy Association, told me. “Pets can be in our lives for years. When that constant companion is all of a sudden gone, the grief is not only real but it can be profound.”

Reidenberg stresses the first step to moving forward from the loss is just acknowledging that you’re grieving. Below are a few other tips he says might also help:

Don’t set a time limit on how long you mourn.

Just let the process happen. “If you push it too fast it may come back down the road,” Reidenberg said. “If you delay it, you may find it coming out in different ways, such as irritability, lack of concentration, poor quality of work or trouble in relationships.”

Don’t compare your grief to someone else’s

“If a friend lost their pet and seemed to get over it in a few days but two weeks into your loss and you are still crying, that’s okay,” Reidenberg said. “We are all different in how we process our feelings so be okay being with your grief process.”

Decide what to do with your pet’s things

Some people want to leave their pet’s water dish out, others want to box it up immediately. There’s no one right way to do it. “What is important is to do what makes you comfortable when you are hurting,” Reidenberg explained.

Keep a photo of your pet around

“Just because our pets are gone does not mean you have to totally remove them from your life,” he said. That could mean putting up photos of your furry friend on your desk or keeping an image of them as your phone background.

Seek support if necessary

There are pet loss groups that can help if you’re having difficulties coping. If the loss begins to interfere with your everyday life, Reidenberg recommends reaching out to a mental health professional.

The bottom line, Reidenberg says, is to remember that your emotions may be unexpected but they’re still valid. They certainly were for me.

When I went through a painful breakup, had a bad cold, was dealing with anxiety or just needed a companion, my dog was there. I never spent time imagining a world where he wouldn’t be. The reality of that was difficult to process at first.

A loss of a pet is still a loss. And you’re allowed to grieve over it.

Credits: Virginia State Parks on flickr


Animals provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support and unconditional love.  If you understand this connection between human and animal, then you understand that coping with loss and grief of a pet is no different than when a person you love dies.  It’s natural for family and friends to express sorrow for your loss for a human, unfortunately, many people do not understand how important animals can be in people’s lives.  Many people may not even understand why you are grieving over the loss of your pet.

People consider their pet as part of the family.  They oftentimes will celebrate their pets’ birthdays, take pictures with them and include them in family activities.

The grieving process is as individual as the person, and can last for days and yet for another for years.  The grieving process is very much the same as when losing a close family member or loved one.  The Kubler-Ross model, otherwise known as the five stages of grief include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling.  You can experience all five stages and then begin the process from the beginning again.  There is no timetable.

The loss of a pet may be a child’s first experience with death.  The child may blame themselves, their parents, or the veterinarian for not saving the pet.  Children may have feelings of depression, sadness and fear that other people they love may also be taken away from them.  Trying to protect your child by saying their pet ran away can cause feeling of betrayal once they learn the truth.  Expressing your own grief and allowing your child to grieve is a healthy way to approach the loss and the sadness.  It is healthy to be able to talk about your pet and reminisce about all the happy times instead of avoiding the topic. Encourage your child to talk about your pet. You can prepare a memorial for your pet and have your child write a letter to their pet… it can be a cathartic experience for them.

Many people ask the question of whether they should replace their pet immediately.  Rushing into this decision does not allow your child or other family members to experience the loss and sadness which is part of life.  You will know when the right time is to adopt a new pet after giving yourself time to grieve.

Owning a pet provides many wonderful experiences including companionship, support and love. Pets have their own personalities and we grow to love them deeply. Do not allow others to minimize your loss when they say “it was just a pet”.  Owning and caring for a pet takes a truly special individual.  Take your time with your grief.

There are many wonderful pet-support groups and hotlines.  If you find yourself unable to cope, you can seek counseling.

By Kim Eisen | Published: March 1, 2010

In the past, most grief therapies take place after the loss or event, whether it’s the transition of a loved one or beloved pet, a divorce, loss of a job, friend, relationship, self-image or anything with which you have formed a bond or attachment. Grief shows up in many aspects of our daily lives and, if not processed, we can hold the energy of it not only emotionally, but oftentimes physically and mentally.

As a culture, we usually talk about grief in relation to death, but it is much more than that. Grief can start the moment you think something unpleasant might happen to you or is happening to you now. While experiencing this myself and with clients, it became so apparent that because grief may have already begun just with the thought that something may be lost, why not address it now? Even if the loss is or isn’t certain, the grief associated with it is still present.

To address this issue, I created a process called “Pre-Grief: Gateway to Grace.” By walking through the imagined loss prior to the event, while neutralizing the energy associated with it, it brings you to a higher state of grace when and if that event actually occurs. And, if it doesn’t occur, you have relieved the pain of the grief associated with the “not knowing” part of you that delves into the emotions of grief anyway.

This process can be done as soon as you have a thought about it and/or during the process of the cycle of grief.

Examples of pre-grief

Although not all-inclusive, the following are some examples of when pre-grief may arise, whether or not the perceived events are terminal or imminent: You or a loved one was just diagnosed with cancer or illness; your pet has an illness or old age is taking its toll; layoffs at work are pending and you might lose your job; your marriage isn’t going well or you are in the process of divorce; a friendship or relationship is not working out the way you had wished; your personal or career status may be affected by something; your sense of safety, family structure and dynamics may be changing; or stress and worry about the future in general.

It only has to be imagined for the grief to begin.

Grief is a normal process, but it doesn’t have to be painful or continue for long periods of time. It can be processed ahead of time. We’ve been told that you have to mourn for a certain length of time after the event to justify the loss or to express your loyalty to a person. I have come to find out this is absolutely NOT true after using this Pre-Grief process with myself and my clients.

Within ten months starting in 2006, I lost a pet of 13 years, my sister and best friend, my other beloved pet of 21 years, and my mother. I used the Pre-Grief process with my beloved pet and mother and I had no grief afterward, just a sense of completion and joy. In fact, as I sat with my mother as she was leaving, I was able to see my father and sister along with angels come and greet her. It was one of many mountain top experiences I’ve enjoyed throughout my life – and I may have missed it if I had not done the pre-grieving. With my sister, who died suddenly, I used this process immediately and the deep and painful grief was totally gone within two weeks, permanently.

I thank them all now, as their transitioning served a valuable lesson in creating this process. My heart is filled with joy every time I think of them.

Peace and clarity

Clients with whom I have used the Pre-Grief process seem to go through an event or loss with much more grace, understanding and compassion – and even joy. It brings them to a place of peace and clarity so the decisions they may need to make are more clear and easier to put in place. If an event or loss they imagine doesn’t happen, it allowed them the opportunity to live without grief, pain, stress and worry of waiting and not knowing.

What is so beautiful about the process is that it is fast, efficient and effective. No drugs, needles or traditional talk therapy are needed. Most people only need one to three sessions to relieve their pre-grief or grief, which is a whole lot better than being in that state for months or even years.

How do you know you are grieving? It shows up in so many ways, but here are some symptoms: Life has just stopped, no emotion, no movement forward, obsessively recalling the past over and over again, deep love pain, don’t want to bring up the issue, feeling that it’s not fair, apathy, why bother or what’s the point, extreme sadness, don’t want to do anything, afraid of failure or success, loss of future dreams, anxiousness or anxiety, physical issues that don’t seem to go away even with proper care, denial, anger, mind racing, intrusive thoughts, depression or despair, and sleep disturbances.

Grief isn’t bad. And it is compounded when it affects your life on a day-to-day basis. Pre-Grief truly is the Gateway to Grace, a more joyful and peaceful existence while living everyday life.

Copyright © 2010 Kim Eisen. All Rights Reserved.

About The Author | Kim Eisen
Kim Eisen, HHCP, EFTCert-I, PhD, DD, of the Twin Cities is a best-selling co-author along with Dr. Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and others of Wake-Up: Live the Life You Love – Finding Personal Freedom. She is an intuitive spiritual healer and board certified Holistic Health Counselor and Practitioner who has helped hundreds of people and entrepreneurs get fast and efficient release of emotional blocks and limiting beliefs using energy psychology tools and has operated Spirit Healing Power since 1999. Contact Kim at or call 612.802.HEAL (4325). See the special offer for readers of The Edge at or join her in her Banishing Baggage series at

Contact Info | (612) 802-4325 |

Other Resources

The Asso­ci­a­tion For Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB)  has an excellent website that we recommend:

Counselors in the USA

Chicago VMA

Cornell University

University of Illinois
217-244-CARE (2273)

Michigan State University

P&G Pet Care, Pet Loss Support Hotline

The Ohio State University

Tufts University

Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine

Washington State University
509-335-5704  or 866-266-8635

Grief over the death of a beloved pet can be devastating
Ellie advises a reader who can’t recover from the death of a dog/best friend, killed by a pitbull in its owner’s presence.

By: Ellie Advice, Published on Thu Mar 14 2013



Q: Last September, I lost my 3-year-old dog/best friend in a pitbull attack. While I was bruised and bloodied, I felt severe guilt over falling apart instead of finding a way to help him. I’ve sought counselling, focused mostly on anxiety, for which I’m already medicated.

My family and friends are a great support but no one totally understands my grief. I’ve read self-help books on pet loss, but none deal with such traumatic loss.

The pitbull owners were my neighbors, who had several prior citations, had already had one dog confiscated, and were all-around irresponsible and cruel to their pets. They moved away.

There’s little I can do legally. I’ve already tried counselling, prayer, group meetings, Internet searches. What else can I do to ease my pain?

A: All grief is personal and arouses anxieties, fears and other feelings of loss. With traumatic loss such as yours — sudden and violent — you feel powerless. The fact that it’s a pet is for you no different than a child because you felt the dog was in your care and your responsibility. So continue with the counselling, especially as you’ve been prone to anxiety. Coordinate your psychological therapy with your doctor, regarding the medication you’re already on, in case something else would be more effective through this period.

My suggestion: Perhaps a fund-raising event toward a pet-related charity, in your dog’s honour, might take you outside your grief, and give purpose to the pleasure/companionship your dog gave you.

Pet-Owner Bereavement Requires Passage of Time

by Mirko Petricevic/Record staff
August 05, 2010

WATERLOO — Until late last year Dr. Jennifer Heick spent her lunches strolling along Waterloo trails with a couple of her best friends – a malemute named Meesha and retriever mutt called Bear. Then cancer crept into their lives and separated the threesome. To spare her a prolonged and painful death, Meesha was euthanized around Christmas time. In April, Bear was also diagnosed with cancer and suffered the same fate.

“You really didn’t have time to finish grieving the first one,” said Heick, a Waterloo chiropractor. “They’re part of your life every day . . . and then they’re not there.” Gone were the long walks and encounters that regularly brought a smile to her face. “You just don’t have that wagging tail as you walk in the door,” she said. Heick talked about her loss with some of her patients. One of them, Brien Thurston, listened longer than most. As they talked over several lunches he never told her to “just get over it.” Instead, Heick said, Thurston gave her permission to still feel sad. A longtime chaplain and counselor, Thurston knew the importance of acknowledging Heick’s grief. Besides, he knew how she felt. Thurston’s all-time favorite cat, Tobias, was also euthanized in April.

“He was the most wonderful little barn cat you ever saw in your life,” Thurston recalled. Soon after, he realized he was experiencing some of the same grief symptoms he saw in many of his clients. “You can’t stifle these things,” Thurston said. He started to think that he’s probably not the only person who ever despaired over the death of a pet. Elderly widows and widowers whose pets die can undergo tremendous amounts of grief, Thurston noted.

But many people underestimate the value of pets, so they don’t acknowledge the grief some pet owners experience by the death of a pet, he said. “People need to see . . . that this grief can go on for a long time,” Thurston said. “It’s not just a simple matter of going and buying a new canary.” A 2007 an Ipsos-Reid poll suggested 35 per cent of Canadian households were home to a dog and about 38 per cent households included a cat. Eventually, all of them die. And for most pet owners, the time will come when they’re going to have to decide on euthanizing the pet that, for many of them, has become a part of the family.

The region is home to many grief counselors. But, Thurston said, few specialize in giving emotional support to bereaved pet owners. So he pounced on the problem like a dog on a new bone. Enter Dr. Robert Close, a veterinarian for more than 30 years who opened a new practice in Kitchener about a year ago. After seeing one of Close’s flyers this spring, Thurston called Close and talked about the depth of grief some people feel after losing a pet. As a longtime veterinarian who has euthanized thousands of patients, Close knew the emotional toll each case takes on pet owners – and on veterinarians. “When I was younger I always thought it might be easier, that you would get used to it (euthanizing animals),” Close said. “But you don’t. “Honestly, sometimes I think my heart is going to shatter into a thousand pieces,” he said. But Close said he knows he’s “doing the right thing” by sparing his patients great pain before they die.

So Close and Thurston developed a support program they feel would help bereaved pet owners, veterinarians and others who care for animals. In addition to addressing a person’s grief over the death of a pet, the program addresses the grief people experience in making decisions about euthanasia and, eventually, obtaining another pet. Thurston plans to start delivering the first classes next week . Bonnie Deekon, executive director of the Cambridge & District Humane society, welcomes the thought of having specific programs, or counselors, available for bereaved pet owners.

The society’s office installed a bulletin board to commemorate pets that have been euthanized. It’s a place where some pet owners linger for a long time. “They can stand in front of the board and look at it for half an hour,” Deekon said. “We never ever turn people away.” Deekon said she would also like to be able to refer some of her staff members who, from time to time, feel the emotional weight of euthanizing animals at the shelter. Kathy Innocente, fundraising and community development manager at the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society, said she occasionally steers bereaved pet owners to humane society volunteers who work at local funeral homes. But she doesn’t know of anyone in the region who specializes in supporting bereaved pet owners. “It would be a very nice thing for us to offer people,” she said, noting that the society hasn’t yet checked into Thurston or his program, so it isn’t referring clients to him at this point.

Leslie Josling, executive director of K-W Counselling Services, said people can get very attached to their pets. “When there’s a loss, that can be a significant trauma,” she said. But if someone is seeking therapy for complex grief over the loss of a pet, there are probably other underlying issues, she added. There might be some unique issues therapists might need to keep in mind when supporting someone with pet bereavement, she said. But any trained therapist should be able to support bereaved pet owners, Josling said. “It seems that you would be able to generalize what you know about loss and grief and death and dying . . . and help somebody through bereavement when it comes to a pet,” she said.

Animal Spirit Healing and Education Network is proud to welcome Teresa Wagner, instructor for ASN’s new Animal Loss & Grief Support Program.

Instructor, Teresa Wagner – May 25, 2010 – Chicago, IL

– Animal Spirit Healing and Education Network is proud to welcome Teresa Wagner, instructor for ASN’s new Animal Loss & Grief Support Program.  This new three-level program in Animal Loss & Grief Support will guide you to become a compassionate presence and trained counsel for end-of-life care, loss, and grief. This program is guided by Teresa Wagner, a highly admired instructor with an extensive and grounded background in counseling and grief support studies.

Teresa notes, “For those who love their animals deeply, losing them can be as devastating as losing a human family member. Grief is indifferent to the species lost.  When we suffer a great loss, pain is inevitable. Though there is no magic wand to avoid the pain of grief, there is much we can do to support the healing of our pain, including being open to the grace. The state of grace is the other side of pain. As different as these energies may be, they exist simultaneously.

When the heart is broken open, it is not just pain that results from the breaking, but the possibility for growth of the heart as it heals.” The various Level 1 courses are excellent for anyone interested in working with their own animals or animal companions of friends and family.  These courses provide a solid foundation for the program. Levels 2 and 3 become increasingly focused on enhancing skill level, knowledge, and techniques to prepare students to work professionally with clients.

Classes included in the program include: –   Legacies of Love: A Gentle Guide to Healing from Your Loss –   Understanding and Preparing for Euthanasia –   Flower Essences and Aromatherapy for End-of-Life Care –   Animal Hospice from the Perspective of the Veterinarian, the Animal, and their People –   Counseling Skills for Animal Communicators and Healing Arts Practitioners –   Ethics for Animal Care Practitioners –   Animal Loss & Grief Support: Case Studies –   And more! This program of study is for those who wish to assist and educate themselves and/or their clients so they can support the process of death and grieving, and the roles of care giving and grief support.  Friends and family members who want to support their loved ones, as well as professionals such as animal communicators; healing arts professionals (flower essence and aromatherapy practitioners, energy healers); veterinarians and other veterinary staff; animal shelter and rescue group workers; trainers and behaviorists; pet loss support group facilitators; and therapists who want to learn more about pet loss are welcome to attend.

About Animal Spirit Healing and Education Network: Animal Spirit Healing and Education Network (ASN) provides distance learning and on-site animal wellness classes including Animal Communication, Shamanic Animal Healing, and Animal Reiki in addition to courses on holistic wellness for families. ASN’s instructors are experts in their fields, with years of practical knowledge and professional teaching experience. Its programs and courses are designed for animal lovers and professionals from vet techs to groomers, trainers to handlers. To learn more visit


Losing an animal friend can feel as devastating as losing a human loved one. For many people their animal friend has been the most significant “other” in their lives and with the animal’s passing they experience a deep hurt and grief that often their human family and friends do not understand. They might say “oh, it’s just a pet, you will get over it” or advise that the best cure is to get another animal to replace the one lost. You on the other hand are left feeling sad, empty, isolated and experiencing unbearable emotional pain. Your animal companion brought unconditional love, comfort, tolerance, respect, joy and meaning to your life. The empty space left where once there was a rowdy bark and big lick, or a soft meow or the stroking of your leg by a furry tail, or the loud happy chirpy greeting when the cage is uncovered, is almost too painful to endure. Whatever animal companion you have lost, you are left with the realization that you a way of life has passed, as well as a dear friend.

Counselling with a therapist who understands your feelings of grief and loss can help. Often the death of a dearly loved pet can evoke questions about the significance of your relationship, the afterlife, and your pet’s soul. Just as when we lose a human loved one we often ask the question “why” of our spiritual deity – whatever belief system we follow. Irrespective of whether you are Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist I can assist you through the use of story and symbol work, to mourn the loss of your animal friend, support you through the sadness, and assist you to develop mechanisms and rituals of remembrance that will allow you to integrate the loss and grow spiritually and eventually be happy once again. There are no “shoulds, ought to, or musts”. As long as your grieving does not involve harming yourself or breaking any laws we can work through the process together. I have a large menagerie of animal friends on the family property on the sunshine coast. Pets that have died are all buried on the property. You can feel safe knowing that I understand your deep attachment to your deceased animal friend and companion and will support you through your grief journey with warmth, compassion and understanding..

If you would like to make an appointment to see me I operate out of two locations: Wednesday I am based at the Wickham Practice, Level 9, 135 Wickham Terrace, Brisbane other days I am based in my room on the Sunshine Coast, 3 Franks Lane, Mooloolah Valley. Telephone 0400 539 710 or email me at

Julie Wilson-Hirst
Psychotherapist/Child and Family Counsellor
Master Mental Health (Psychotherapy)
Grad Cert Expressive Therapies, Ad. Dip Buddhist

Cry when and how you need to – You have lost a special companion. Strong emotions can be a part of grief.

Walk or exercise if you are able and try to eat and sleep regularly.

Keep to your normal routine as much as possible as this can provide you some stability and a framework for what seems “out of control”.

Be careful about excess alcohol or caffeine.

Think about “getting through” this loss rather than “over it” and be gentle with yourself in the meantime.

Children are not too young or too old to grieve and may need support from someone other than yourself.

Talk to people who are supportive and who understand the importance of your companion animal to you.

Allow yourself to take the time you need to get through this.

Don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek counselling, it can help to talk to someone who understands and who will acknowledge your loss.

Penny Carroll
Cert Teach, BEd, Grad Dip Min

MEd St (Guidance & Counselling)

Currently working as a lecturer and counselor, I have had broad experience with both adults and children. In previous positions as teacher, in pastoral care and school counselor, much of my work has been in the area of loss and grief. I understand the many dimensions of pet loss, through both professional and personal experience.

I am available for counselling at a number of venues in Brisbane and Caboolture and I am available for home visits when time permits.

I have developed a workbook to assist people in an ongoing way to understand grief, to look at and acknowledge their loss and also find ways to remember their beloved companion.