Angela Fletcher (MBACP)

Professional pet bereavement counsellor

Face to face, telephone, email, instant messaging or webcam counselling

07952 230199

counselling@angela.fletcher.co.uk

Angela Fletcher (MBACP)

Professional pet bereavement counsellor

Face to face, telephone, email, instant messaging or webcam counselling  

07952 230199

counselling@angelafletcher.co.uk

Counselling  support - for the death or expected death of an animal companion

Pet Bereavement

Experiencing the death of an animal who has shared your life with you can be devastating.  Sure, we are all different in how we grieve a death – whether that be the death of an animal being, or a human being.  Some of us may be quite level headed about the loss.  Some of us, however, may need some support in living through, and coping with the grief that . 

‘Pet bereavement’ refers to grieving the loss of an animal – whether that be from their death, or from other ways such as them having gone missing.  That animal might have been a pet, an assistance animal (eg for someone who is deaf or blind), or have carried out another role for their human companion.

Grieving the death of an animal tends to have a few differences to grieving the death of a human being.  The feelings and emotions we experience may have many similarities – anger, denial, confusion, sadness, loss …  However, the response we may get from those around us may – but not always – be very different to if we were grieving the death of a human.  This can make a difference to how we feel about our grief. 

For example, if those around us accept the depth of our grief and allow us to grieve, perhaps giving us hugs and letting us talk about how we feel, then we may be able to work through our grief and accept that we feel really upset. 

However, if those around us, tell us things such as the cliches:

  • ‘it was only an animal’
  • ‘you can always get another one’

… we may end up feeling confused as to why we are feeling so upset, when the message we are getting from everyone is  that we shouldn’t feel as upset as we do, and that perhaps the grief that we are feeling – over an animal, surely can’t be normal … but if it was a human then it would be acceptable. 

Grieving the death of an animal can also differ to grieving the death of a human because with many animal deaths, we, as their human companions, are more likely to have been involved in planning the time and day of their death. Whilst this does happen with human deaths, it is much more the norm with an animal – the action of ‘putting them to sleep’.  How many pet owners would much rather prefer it if their animal died of natural causes, and they didn’t have to have the additional heartache of having to make that decision – on top of then 1) grieving their loss, and 2) possibly also grieving when those around them do not accept the depth of their grief.


Death

Most likely, we will experience death at some stage – whether this is the death of a person or an animal. This may be the death – ‘loss’ – of someone we loved, or someone we didn’t love or particularly like, but who was a key person in our life in any case.

Death is a necessary part of living. However, continuing to live our own life, having experienced the death of a person or animal, can be the hardest thing any of us have to live through. How we experience and cope with a bereavement can vary due to many factors, for example:

  • previous deaths we have experienced
  • the stage of life we are at, eg young person, family, retired
  • family circumstances/events, eg. divorce, job change, house move, change of school

It can be very hard to move forward in our lives – or to want to move forward in our lives, living day to day, with that person or animal no longer in our lives.  However, it is possible.  We may be able to get through it on our own, or we need some support – and there is a lot of support available, not just from me, but from many other independent counsellors, and many agencies – please see my Help page for contact details for some of them.


Pre-bereavement

The death we are living with may not have been sudden.  We all know that we are all going to die at some point, and that our pets are also going to die at some point – most likely before we die ourselves.  However, in our modern society, with modern medicine, whether we like it or not, we now have the option to choose when our pets die.

You may have been nursing a sick pet for days, weeks, months even years.  You may have known for a while that that animal is going to die – sooner, rather than later.

‘Pre-bereavement’ refers to the expectation that a death will happen soon.  This can also stir up many emotions, such as:

  • confusion – for example, as to what will happen, or when the death will take place – because we can plan when we are going to take our pet to the vet to have it ‘put to sleep’
  • guilt – perhaps wondering if you could have stopped the train of events that is now in place – eg. vet visits, medication given, actions you have taken
  • loneliness – feeling as if the animal has died already
  • detachment from the animal who is dying – to try to prepare yourself for their death you might try to dissociate yourself from them before they actually die
  • denial – acting as if the animal is not ill and pretending that everything is ‘OK’

Whilst we know that we are all going to die at some point, an animal who is terminally ill gives us the certainty of death – that it is going to happen, and most likely before our own death.

That means that it is likely that we are going to have to experience their death – that we are going to be bereaved.  It may be a death that we were not expecting so soon – or at all.

Living with the knowledge and expectation that an animal is going to die – and die sooner rather than later, can be a huge thing to live with.  You could find yourself living with this knowledge for days, weeks, months even years.

As with surviving an animal who has actually died, you may feel a variety of emotions, which may change over time.  Everyone experiences things differently.  You may take the knowledge of an imminent death calmly and with acceptance, or it might ‘take over your life’, thinking about it constantly.


Help

There are many agencies who offer support with bereavement, as well as many other life issues.  Please see my Help page for their contact details.  There are also many independent counsellors, including myself, who offer bereavement support.  Please have a look around my website, and if you feel that I might be able to support you in your grief, please do contact me using the details on my Contact page.

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