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