Counseling Services for Pet Loss, Bereavement and Other Animal-Related Issues
Our animal companions are a vital part of our families and our lives. The illness or loss of animals can be emotionally devastating to their human companions. For many, the loss of an animal is equal to or greater than the loss of a human family member. Also, caring for an ill, injured or dying animal, making life and death decisions, or being present when an animal dies creates intense emotions. Sometimes, friends, family members and co-workers do not realize how profound these feelings can be. Although there has been progress in our society in acknowledging the importance of animals in our lives, the necessary understanding and support is generally not available.
Animals demand so little and give so much in return. They are a source of joy, healing and unconditional love. In our lives and in counseling, sharing the joy and wonder that animals bring to us and learning all that they have to teach us is part of the process of dealing with their loss when it occurs.
During my first meeting with ALL clients, not just those who come for pet loss or animal-related issues, I always ask about animal family members, both past and present. People are often reluctant to disclose how important their animals are to them and can sometimes minimize or suppress their true feelings about their animals. But if these feelings, both of love and loss ARE acknowledged, it is usually done with embarrassment or apology, qualifying the admission with statements such as "this is going to sound silly" or I know I'm being ridiculous" etc. Therefore, asking about the animals in their lives gives clients permission to acknowledge these very significant feelings. Then, they are free to share both joy from sharing their lives with animals and pain from losses that were never talked about or grieved.
My approach to counseling is holistic, focusing on prevention and health and wellness for the body, mind, emotions and spirit. I believe therapists are merely guides to aid in the process of growth, empowerment, connection and discovery, things we all seek as part of being human. Grieving our losses is an integral part of life and assisting clients to process grief in their own way and in their own time is a vital part of any counseling experience.
I also offer services to those who work with animals including veterinarians, animal advocates, trainers, shelter workers, service animal workers, groomers, etc. These humans all play unique roles in the lives of animals. In addition to having their own feelings about and attachments to animals, bearing witness to the emotions of their clients, or to mistreatment, abuse and neglect of animals, combined with the general lack of awareness and support, can create emotional distress or trauma for these caregivers. Having support around these experiences is necessary to be able to continue to work in the field.
Gandhi has been quoted as saying "The true nature of a society is measured by the way it treats its animals." Our society has advanced in the treatment of our animals but there is still a long way to go. Increasing public awareness about the availability of animal-related counseling is one small way I can help. I am honored to be part of the movement to illuminate the importance of the human-animal bond and to help meet the need for this type of service.
In addition to being an animal lover and sharing my life with 3 dogs and 3 cats (a mama and 2 of her daughters), I am a member of The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (www.APLB.org), and a contributing member to many animal advocacy organizations.
There are many resources to help you deal with pet loss, bereavement and other animal-related issues. You could contact your veterinarian, businesses that provide services for animals, animal welfare organizations such as the MSPCA or the ASPCA or use the Internet. Doing a search on pet loss and bereavement provides a wealth of information.
To find a therapist who provides pet loss counseling you could use the above mentioned resources or use word-of-mouth, the phone book, your insurance company, etc. When you contact the therapist, ask if he/she provides these services. It is important to know that you have similar views when it comes to this very sensitive topic.
Whichever method you choose, honor yourself and your relationship with your animals by acknowledging the importance of the feelings of love that you have for your animal companions.
Pet Loss and Other Resources
"Old age means you will never have all the dogs you wanted to." Joe Gores
Doing a search on pet loss and bereavement will provide a wealth of information and resources. The ones listed below are good starting points.
Books for Pet Loss and Bereavement
Allen, Moira Anderson, Coping With Sorrow On The Loss of Your Pet, Dog Ear Publishing, LLC
Davis, Christine, For Every Dog An Angel, For Every Cat An Angel, Lighthearted Press Inc.
Farnsworth, Annie, Editor, Grace Notes, Sheltering Pines Press
Greene, Lorri A., Ph.D. and Jacquelyn Landis, Saying Goodbye To The Pet You Love, New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Kowalski, Gary, The Souls of Animals, Stillpoint Publishing
Kurz, Gary, Cold Noses at The Pearly Gates
Prend, Ashley Davis, Transcending Loss
Reynolds, Rita M., Blessing the Bridge, NewSage Press
Rylant, Cynthia, Dog Heaven, The Blue Sky Press
Sife, Wallace, The Loss Of A Pet, Howell Book House
Smith, Scott S. , The Soul of Your Pet, Holmes Publishing Group
Animal Communication........ www.JeanineMurphy.com Jeaninetalks@hotmail.com
Glenn Goldman........... www.petdogtraining.com
Loyal Canines, Beverly, MA, Jermaine Anderson
The Animal Rescue Site.......... charity / resource / shopping