Pet Loss and Grief Counseling

The loss of a pet can be for some people, a devastating and misunderstood experience. It is not unusual, if you are feeling bereft and distressed if you have recently experienced the loss of your pet. Those who have never bonded closely with an animal and experienced their unconditional love can sometimes dismiss your pain and distress. While death is probably the most commonly experienced loss of a pet, other ways of losing a beloved pet, like their disappearance, or having to part with a pet through family circumstances or relocation can also be very distressing. The normal response to loss, in whatever form it takes, is grief and most people find it helpful and supportive to have their loss acknowledged.

A counselors who understand pet loss, can provide a secure and compassionate environment in which someone can share their distress. Each person’s response to loss is as unique as the relationship that you shared with one you loved deeply and each such relationship needs to be honored. Most people who are grieving find counseling helpful because they are listened to, respected and they have the opportunity to express not just their pain, but what this loss means to them. Counseling can also help you understand that much of what you are experiencing is normal and the counselor is able to validate your feelings. The process of expressing what you are feeling can help to reduce your emotional pain. Usually, when someone loses one who has had a special place in their life, they want and need to tell someone what made their relationship so special.

A counselor is usually able to help you manage your grief and suggest healthy ways of caring for yourself. An important aspect of grieving is to be kind to yourself. Avoid sharing the loss of your pet with people who will not understand and support you. It can be difficult if others respond to your news with something like: “It is just a dog- get another one.” Your relationship with your pet was special and from them you experienced much love and joy. You owe it to yourself and the one you loved to have that valued by others who are willing to honor that relationship and support you on your grief. It can sometimes be easier just to say to those who do not understand that wonderful bond that can exist between people and their pets, that you have recently lost a family member.

Remember that talking with someone who understands can help you find your way through this difficult time.

By Michael O’Donoghue BVSc  People and Pets

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