Do You Need Pet Loss Counseling?

So you’ve been devastated by the loss of a family member… your beloved pet! And you feel like you might just need pet loss counseling.

You may be bewildered at the depth of your sadness over losing a pet. After all, it’s “just an animal… right?” You and I both know it was much more than that. First and foremost, you need to understand that you have the right (and need) to mourn deeply and fully over the loss of your animal companion.

Right now, your sadness and distress over your loss has caused you to reach out for help (or you wouldn’t be here). But first we will discuss some basic truths about pet loss grief that might help you understand and feel a little better.

One of the best things you can do to help yourself is realize that although most outsiders don’t understand, you are perfectly justified in your deep feelings of grief and loss. The loss of a beloved family pet can be devastating. In general, our society does not recognize the significance of pet loss or allow for a proper bereavement. You may even be embarrassed or uneasy about expressing your grief to others, and may end up feeling isolated and alone in your grief. When a pet dies, there are no formal and public rituals, like a funeral, where sorrow can be openly expressed and emotional support freely given. Since we don’t know how to properly deal with pet loss grief, we usually suffer in silence.

Now how do you deal with people who don’t understand what you’re going through?

These are three biggies you are sure to hear:

“It was just an animal”

“just get over it,” OR

“You can always get another pet”.

These only-too-often-heard statements by well-meaning friends show a profound lack of understanding and empathy for your pain.

They just don’t understand, and have probably never suffered the pain of losing a beloved animal themselves. The best thing you can do is simply to forgive them for their ignorance. They really do mean well. Let insensitive comments roll off your back, and don’t let them make you feel like you don’t have a legitimate right to grieve. Avoid these “well meaning” folks and contact that someone you have found who does care, and will listen to your tale of grief without trying to “fix everything”.

If you have found your way to this article, you are looking for some major help in dealing with your pain and grief, perhaps even pet loss counseling. And in extreme cases, we very much recommend professional help. But before you progress to this major (and probably expensive) intervention, we think you should try to find the support you need from among your friends and family members.

First, arm yourself with some knowledge and understanding about the normal grief process. Learn what reactions you can expect in grief, and find out how to make grief more bearable. Visit your public library, bookstore or pet supply center and ask for information and literature on pet loss and bereavement.

It is important to find an understanding, nonjudgmental listener who will listen to your story, and let you work through your pain without offering “quick fixes”. It takes time to come to terms with your loss, and it will be easier if you can find a supportive friend to help.

If you feel like you need some pet loss counseling to overcome your grief, by all means make an appointment with a grief counselor. You may even find one experienced in pet loss grief. Pull out the yellow pages and start calling veterinarians in your area, or call the local pet shelter. Ask if they know of any experienced pet bereavement counselors. Or call your family physician and ask for a referral to a grief counselor.

Follow the Pet Loss link below for more information and support from folks who do “get it”.

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