Pet bereavement/Pet Loss counselling
The grief over the death or loss of a pet can be as deep if not deeper than that over the loss of a human being for many pet owners. In today’s society pets are very much loved members of the family. Many people revolve their lives around their pets including hobbies such as dog showing, dog agility and equestrian sports.
Society is not always accepting of our personal grief and pet bereavement/ pet loss is one of those areas. Family and friends may find it hard to understand why someone should grieve so much for the loss of a pet however grieving over the loss of your much loved companion is perfectly normal!
Pet loss may also be the last in a long line of distressing experiences i.e. the death of a close family member or a past traumatic event.
Difficult decisions may have to be made such as euthanasia. A much loved pet which has gone missing or re-homed through no fault of the owner or the dog can bring its own emotional implications. Talking to a therapist can help to work through the different emotions you experience.
Grieving over the death or loss of a pet is normal
Grief over the loss of a pet is perfectly normal however as in grief over the loss of a human its impact is entirely individual. Some people may find it easier to go and buy another pet quite quickly where others decide to have no more pets as they cannot bear to go through the emotional pain suffered through the death of a much loved pet once again.
A recent study carried out by the charity Harrisons fund found that in fact humans have more empathy for animals than for their fellow human beings.
When counselling may be required
Grief is a natural process however we can get stuck at a certain point of the grieving process and this is where counselling may be of benefit.
During counselling I offer you the opportunity to be listened to in a safe and confidential space, where you can be heard in confidence with empathy and acceptance.
Below are some common reactions to the death or loss of a pet. The majority of these are also the same reactions experienced over the death of a much loved family member or friend.
Loss of appetite
Feeling silly in the eyes of others for grieving a pet
Animal Assisted Therapy
I am able to provide Animal Assisted Therapy at my Odiham practice. If this is something you may be interested in please contact me to discuss.
..“Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.”
― Dean Koontz
What is Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)?
It is widely recognised that animals provide much needed physical comfort. Animals have the ability to form strong connections with humans and vice versa, sometimes referred to as the Human-Animal bond. A growing awareness of how helpful this bond can be in a therapeutic context has led to the establishment of many AAT programmes.
Animals draw people together in the moment, including those who might not otherwise interact with each other. Animals can and do provide warmth and companionship .There is always something to focus on with an animal around and their habits make us laugh and smile.
For many older people the only physical contact they receive is the procedural touch of a doctor. Animals prompt memories and storytelling. Reminiscing is highly beneficial for people with dementia and animals tend to stir up all kinds of memories, from family histories to evacuation experiences.
Animals offer affection and unconditional acceptance. They are responsive, live in the ‘here and now’ and don’t mind who you are or what you look like. They are usually direct and honest and unlike humans they are non-judgemental. Animals don’t criticise, hold grudges, change the rules or otherwise confuse through verbal communications. In fact some clients actually feel safer and less threatened around animals. Being with animals can encourage our nurturing and empathic traits and, for survivors of abuse, offer an opportunity for ‘safe touch’.
The recognised benefits of interactions between people and animals include:
Development of relationships and emotional bonds built on trust and respect
Improved mood, morale and sense of self worth
Better social interaction, reducing feelings of social isolation
Relief from anxiety and stress (slower heart rate and lower blood pressure)
I use Animal Assisted Therapy that is client-centred and designed to achieve specific goals. I work mainly with dogs and follow accepted guidelines to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of both clients and animals.
When can AAT help?
AAT aims to promote mental, physical and social well-being. Many people can benefit from this intervention and it is currently being used in a variety of settings including hospitals, special schools and colleges, prisons, residential care and in counselling practices.
Studies suggest that it is particularly effective for vulnerable people including those with emotional and behavioural problems. Working alongside animals offers practitioners a different way of exploring difficult and sensitive issues as clients may find it easier to express their feelings and recount painful experiences.
Where clients are suffering from depression, research indicates benefits such as focus of interest and positive attention, as well as pleasure in handling animals. Time spent stroking and talking to dogs can result in lowering blood pressure, relieving pain, reducing anxiety levels and enhanced mood.