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BLOG: How Counselling can help with the loss of a cherished pet

Finding comfort and healing with pet loss counselling

Pets are family members. The affection and commitment that people hold for their beloved pets are profound, and the pain that follows their loss is often beyond words.


The bond between a human and their beloved pet is often indescribable. Our pets

are not just animals - whether it’s a loyal dog, your trusted horse, a friendly cat, or

any other furry or feathered friend, these animals become cherished members of our

families. They offer us companionship, love, comfort, unconditional support, and a

purpose, but when they pass away it can leave a void in our heart that is difficult to

fill.


Grieving the loss of your beloved pet is a unique experience that is often deeply

painful, emotional and devastating, it’s essential to acknowledge the depth of the

emotions involved. Many people underestimate the intensity of grief when it comes

to losing a pet, but it’s important to remember that the bonds we form with our

animals are often as strong as those with human family members. The grief

experienced after the loss of a pet can manifest in various ways, including sadness,

anger, guilt, and even physical symptoms like the loss of appetite or difficulty

sleeping.


Understanding the Grief of Pet Loss:

Grief is a natural response to the loss of a loved one, including

our cherished pets. The emotions experienced after their

death are similar to the grief experienced after losing a human

loved one. The symptoms can be complicated and longlasting,

which is why seeking counselling can make a

significant difference.

The grieving process is unique to each individual, but common reactions include:

Shock and Denial: Initially, it can be hard to accept that your

beloved pet is gone. You might expect them to come bounding

into the room or hear their familiar sounds.


Anger and Guilt: You may feel anger towards yourself,

veterinarians, or family members for not being able to save

them. Guilt can also be a heavy burden if you blame yourself for

their passing.


Depression and Isolation: The emptiness left by your pet’s absence can lead to

deep sadness and feelings of isolation. You might withdraw from social

activities or struggle to find joy in your daily life.


Acceptance and Healing: In time, most people move towards acceptance and

healing, though the pain of loss can linger. It’s crucial to remember that

healing is a personal journey that unfolds at its own pace.


The Challenges of Explaining Pet Grief to Others

When grieving the loss of a beloved pet, one of the most significant challenges is

the potential lack of understanding or empathy from family and friends. They may

not grasp the profound connection you had with your pet or the intensity of your

grief. This can be especially frustrating and isolating, making it even more

important to consider counselling as a valuable resource.



Why Family and Friends May Not Understand


Minimisation of the Loss: Some people may trivialise the loss of a pet by

comparing it to losing an inanimate object, failing to recognise the significant

emotional connection that existed.


Limited Experience: One reason family and friends might not comprehend the

depth of your grief is a lack of personal experience. If they haven’t formed

similarly strong bonds with animals, they may find it challenging to relate to

your feelings.


Social Expectations: Society, in general, tends to downplay the significance of

pet loss. The phrase “it’s just a pet” is often used, reflecting the common

misunderstanding of the deep emotional connections that can exist between

humans and animals.


Misperception of Grief: Some people may assume that pet grief is less

significant than grieving for humans, overlooking that the intensity of grief is

not determined by the species but by the quality of the relationship.


Unrealistic Expectations: Family and friends may also expect you to move on

quickly or “get over it”, which can add pressure to an already emotionally

challenging situation.



The Role of Pet Loss Counselling:


This is where counselling can be exceptionally helpful. Counsellors working

in pet loss understand the unique bond between humans and their animal

companions. We recognise that your grief is legitimate and deserving of

respect. Here’s why counselling can be instrumental:


Non-judgmental Space: In a counselling setting, you have the

freedom to express your emotions without judgment. Counsellors

understand the depth of your grief and offer a safe space for you to

share your feelings. We offer empathy and an understanding ear

when you need it most.


Validation of Emotions: Counsellors are trained to acknowledge

and validate your emotions, acknowledging that your grief is real

and substantial. This validation can be a source of comfort when

you may not find it elsewhere.


Coping Strategies: Counsellors can help you develop coping strategies to help you

navigate your grief. These strategies may include mindfulness techniques, memory

book, journaling, or holding a memorial service, or finding ways to honour your

pet’s memory.


Supportive Guidance: A counsellor can guide you through the grieving process,

helping you understand the stages of grief and what to expect. This knowledge

can be empowering and reassuring.


Preventing Complicated Grief: In some cases, the loss of a pet can trigger

complicated grief, which may require more specialised help. Counsellors can

recognise when grief becomes problematic and help you seek appropriate

treatment.


Understand the Unique Bond: Counsellors recognise that the bond between

humans and their pets is unique, and they can provide insight into the profound

connection you shared with your pet.


Healing and Closure: Sometimes people struggle with unresolved feels of loss or

regret. Counselling can help you work through your unresolved feelings such as

guilt or regret and move towards healing and closure.


CONCLUSION:


Losing a cherished pet is a heart-wrenching experience that can leave a

significant void in your life.


Pet loss is a grief that can be profound and complex, and not everyone in

your circle may fully grasp the depth of your emotions. While friends and

family offer valuable support, counselling provides an empathetic and

supportive space to process your feelings, validate your grief, and develop

coping strategies.


Seeking help is a sign of strength, and with the assistance of counselling you

can find comfort and understanding during this challenging time.

Remember, grief is a natural part of the healing process, and with time and

support of a counsellor, the pain of losing your beloved pet can transform

into cherished memories and a lasting legacy of love while moving forward in

life.


You don’t have to go through this alone. Take a step towards

healing by booking a consultation with Maryanne.






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