Companion Animal Bereavement
When we lose a companion animal, we are often unprepared for the intense grief we experience. And often we must make end-of-life decisions for our animal friends. These times are very difficult and come with complex emotions.
Our companion animals are a part of our family. Our relationship with our dog, cat, horse, or other animal can be a source of love, comfort, and joy and provide a connection like none other. We can experience a unique love and respect with our companion animals and the mutual bond is complex and very intimate.
Grief is a natural response to loss. People can experience a wide-range of feelings, including: sadness, anxiety, anger, loneliness, guilt, relief, isolation, confusion, or numbness. People can also feel disorganized and tired. They can have trouble concentrating, changes in appetite, and vivid dreams. Sometimes, people’s sleep is affected.
Healing from the loss of a companion animal can be particularly difficult for several reasons, including:
- It can be difficult to find people who truly understand how profound your loss is. Lots of people will sympathize when someone loses a human family member or friend, but not always when we are grieving the death of our companion animal.
- Our connection with our companion animal was the only truly safe relationship we’ve ever experienced.
- Our companion animal gave us unconditional love.
- Our bereavement with losing our companion animal awakens other losses and fears.
I remember crying with a neighbor whose dog had recently died. She told me how much she appreciated me recognizing that her loss was deep and profound. “It’s hard to share this with other people,” she said, “because they don’t understand; they think ’Oh, Smokey was just a dog.’”
You don’t have to go through this alone. When we’re in the middle of our grief, it’s hard to see that we will eventually feel better and integrate our loss into our life and heal.
When we are facing the loss of this special attachment, it is important we find social support, whether with friends, family, a pet bereavement group, or a therapist. I am an experienced professional who can relate and help in these most sad circumstances.
Contact me for a free 20 minute phone consultation and we can talk about how I might be of help to you.
I can be reached at
[email protected] or use my contact form below.
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I'm always happy to hear from people.
If you have any questions, need more information, or would like to make an appointment, you can call me at 301-279-7779, email me at [email protected], or use the form below.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker • Over 15 years of experience • Certified Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist and Supervisor • Member of The Greater Washington Society of Clinical Social Work • Member of the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy • Member of Clinical Social Work Association • Member of National Association of Social Workers
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On Being: Lessons I Learn From Animals