Counseling for Pet Loss

Counseling for Pet Loss

Losing a beloved pet can cause grief and bereavement fully as intense as the loss of a loved person. Sometimes, in fact, we are even closer to our pets than to people in our lives; they can be our constant companions, our comforters, and share an unconditional love as deep as any love we feel.

Because we have taken responsibility for them, we are often faced with having to make the difficult, sometimes excruciating, decision of when to let them go. It can help to talk this through with someone who can listen with understanding, and who has experience with the issues and feelings these decisions bring. We want to make a decision we can live with in the future, knowing that we did our best to ease and prevent suffering, and to help our pet pass with the greatest love and care.

Often people who have not experienced the bond of love with a pet simply don’t grasp the depth of the wound that can be left in a person’s heart, and the emptiness that can be felt in the home, the family, and daily life. But the bereavement is real, and deserves mourning. Such deep pain can’t be healthily buried or denied; we need time and space to feel all the feelings it brings–not only sadness, but sometimes disbelief, anxiety, anger, guilt, regret. If others are impatient with our grieving, it can add to the hurt to have our loss minimized or dismissed.

In counseling, we can find a safe, respectful, and unhurried place to say all we need to say, to feel what we need to feel, and ultimately to have help in healing. Discovering our own way to honor our pet’s memory does help cope with the loss, and gradually, preoccupation and pain both lessen with time.

How long it takes to grieve the loss of a pet is entirely personal. Grief comes in waves. Hurrying the process doesn’t help, but prolonging the grief is also not helpful. Counseling can help reassure us that the time spent in mourning is not the measure of our caring. When we are no longer overwhelmed with grief, there is room for remembering our pet with love, and with gratitude for the experiences–all the delightful and dear moments–we have had, and will not forget.