Face to face, telephone, email, instant messaging or webcam counselling
Experiencing the death of an animal who has shared your life with you can be devastating. Of course, 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 and unemotional about the loss. Some of us, however, may need some support in living through, and coping with our grief.
‘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 some differences to grieving the death of a human being. The feelings and emotions you experience may have many similarities – anger, denial, confusion, sadness, loss … However, the response you may get from those around you may (or may not) be very different to if you were grieving the death of a human. This may make a difference to how you feel about your grief.
For example, if those around you accept the depth of your grief and allow you to grieve, perhaps giving you hugs and letting you talk about how you feel, then you may be able to work through your grief and accept that you feel really upset.
However, as with many people grieving the loss of an animal being, if those around you, tell you things such as the cliches:
- ‘it was only an animal’
- ‘you can always get another one’
… you may well end up feeling confused as to why you are feeling so upset, when the message you are getting from everyone is that you shouldn’t feel as upset as you do, and that perhaps the grief that you 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, 1) grieving their loss, and 2) possibly also grieving when those around them do not accept the depth of their grief.
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.
Pet bereavement support
I offer support to help people work through their grief following the death death, of an animal being. I also offer support if you are expecting the death of an animal being. In my experience, people who contact me for support for the death of an animal being, tend to only want to have one session with me – they want to talk through that they are not going mad, and that perhaps it is a normal reaction to ‘be so upset over the death of an animal’.
Whilst I am very willing to offer counselling sessions for people grieving the death of an animal, I have found in practice, that people do not want a ‘full blown’ counselling session. As it is still not widely accepted to show how upset we might be over the death of an animal, most of us will not know anyone who has grieved so much over an animal, and I’ve found that that people tend to want a friendly face/voice to talk to, or someone on the end of an email or chat session who has experienced the depth of grief that they are experiencing.
As a result, whilst I am very willing to offer pet bereavement counselling if someone asks me for that, what I tend to offer is a chance for you to talk about how your animal being died, or their expected death. For many of us, the death of an animal will have involved the vet, as well as medication, plus a whole series of decisions that you will have made. With that comes guilt – at what we or the vet did, or didn’t do right.
That can all end up as a mess in your head, and sometimes talking it though – what happened, what you did, what the vet did, what those around you told you to do, what medication you used or didn’t use, how it might have been different … sometimes talking with friends and family may be really useful, but sometimes it also may not be that helpful or what you feel you need.
I offer the chance to talk with someone who is not a family member, or a friend, or a vet, but is someone who has experienced the pain of living through the death of a cherished animal being, and of the guilt of should I have done things differently, and ‘if only …’
In addition, whilst the session is not for me to talk about my stuff, I have found that people sometimes find it helpful, and also want to hear about my own experiences about losing the animal beings that I have loved … I think that is because hearing about someone else having a similar experience can make it feel more normal for us, and not alone in what we are going through.
This is what makes the support that I offer for the death of an animal being more of a chat – rather than counselling, which is why I refer to it as being support rather than counselling.
Pet bereavement support website
It may be that the healing you need, either with family or friends, or on your own, is to cry and cry and cry – if that is the case, don’t underestimate the importance and healing value of crying – and crying, and crying. However, you may feel the need to talk or just ‘be’ with someone you don’t know – either face to face, on the phone, or online. Everyone is different, and we all need different types of support as we go through our lives.
As well as support from talking with me, I also offer pet bereavement support and in the pages of my Pet Bereavement Support website.
On that website, I have put together my thoughts about grieving and loss, and grieving an animal being in particular – which I’ve experienced from my own mourning of cherished animal beings, and from living day after day, with the grief, loss, guilt, questions, emptiness, sadness …
I have also added my thoughts about time, and moving forward each day, and have also put together lists of agencies, websites, and books which also offer pet bereavement support. My wish is that this is able to give you some support …
Copyright © 2019  Angela Fletcher
Bereavement counselling and support