Pet Loss Grief Counseling

Pet loss grief counseling is an option some owners explore following the death of a pet. Not everyone needs counseling, but it is an expanding field of therapy available to those owners who do.

The Stages of Grief

Psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross has identified five stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. Some of the stages may overlap, and some people may experience two emotions simultaneously. Most people go through at least two stages of grief as they process a loss.

For years, the loss of a pet was not considered as significant as the loss of a person, though the emotions experienced were much the same. Recently, pet loss has become recognized as an emotional issue that some pet owners may need some professional assistance to get past.

In some cases, your feelings of loss over a pet's death may be complicated by guilt, either because you believe you could have or should have done more to help your pet in some way, or because you decided to have your pet euthanized because there was no hope for his or her recovery. Although you know that you did the best you could and made the wisest choice, given the situation, you may still feel guilty over the outcome.

When we lose someone we love, we grieve. Grieving a loss is normal. What may not be normal, though, is when the grief you feel over the death of your pet overpowers your life to the point that you cannot work, go to school or otherwise function as you did before your pet died. This is when it may be time to reach out for assistance.

How Pet Loss Grief Counseling Works

Pet loss grief counseling offers you a chance to discuss your feelings and emotions with an empathetic counselor who will listen, ask follow-up questions and offer suggestions as to how you can cope with your loss.

Depending on the area of the country in which you live, counseling services may be offered through a local veterinary clinic, a psychology or psychiatry practice, a veterinary school or a humane society or animal shelter. Some counseling is offered in one-on-one sessions, while in other cases, it is provided through a support group of fellow pet owners who have suffered a loss. In other instances, counseling services may be provided over the phone or via the Internet.

When to Add a New Pet to the Family

The decision to add a new pet to your family is not an easy one, but there are no set rules governing this decision. You may wish to wait until you believe you're effectively coping with the loss of your pet, which may take months or even years, or you may miss the companionship of an animal so much that you can't wait to visit a breeder, animal rescue group or shelter to select a new pet. The choice is up to you, and your grief counselor or support group can help you make the right decision for you.