Ushering Pets Gently to the End

— A caring and dignified death by in-home euthanasia can help bring solace to grieving pet owners

Kerri Miller’s dog, Cookie

By Kerri Miller

The first message I left on the veterinarian’s phone last winter was so distorted by tears and grief that I had to call back twice to repeat the details.

It had been 26 hours of sleeplessness and stress since our older shepherd’s legs had given way beneath her and I realized she wouldn’t be able to stand again on her own.

We were fast approaching a moment where her diminished quality of life — she wasn’t eating much and had given up on our daily walks — was edging into suffering. My husband and I anguished over what we knew was inevitable. We’d used in-home euthanasia services when our previous dog had developed cancer, but I think I would’ve been comforted if I’d known about the advice that veterinarians like Dr. Kenzie Quick gives to clients in times like these: “Better a moment too soon than a day too late.”

“This little buddy of mine has seen me through so many things that no one else has.”

Quick, a Tucson, Arizona, staff veterinarian with Lap of Love, a company that provides in-home hospice and euthanasia service for pets, acknowledges that knowing exactly when to make the decision to put a companion animal out of their pain is a delicate one. “There is no perfect time,” she says. “Any time between when their quality of life is no longer good but they’re not suffering. Any time in that zone is the time to say goodbye.”

Saying goodbye to Rex, Heather Boschke’s Yorkie/Pomeranian mix, was something she dreaded. “He’s seen me through job transitions, two boyfriends and one fiancé. This little buddy of mine has seen me through so many things that no one else has.”

But at sixteen years old, Rex had advanced kidney disease, wore diapers and was struggling to walk. Boschke and her husband reached out to friends who recommended MN Pets, Minnesota-based in-home euthanasia care.

What she found, Boschke says, was empathy and, most important, confirmation that she was making the best decision for Rex. “The memory we have of his passing was caring and dignified.”

Paradox of Difficult Yet Fulfilling Work

Quick believes that’s an essential part of her interaction with the pet owner, from the first call to the moment when the animal is gone. “My role is to come in, be calm, validate their decision and then to take really good care of their pet. To let them know that I have this under control and to provide that peaceful transition,” she explains.

A woman holding a small dog. Next Avenue, in-home euthanasia for pet, putting pet down at home
Heather Boschke and Rex

Dr. Karen Fine, a veterinarian and author of “The Other Family Doctor,” writes that when she began making house calls and offering in-home euthanasia services, she had to learn to be comfortable “around grief and intense emotions.” She adds, “I often felt like I didn’t belong in the sacred space between human and animal at such a pivotal moment.”

The number of vets who specialize in in-home euthanasia has grown over the last several decades, but overall, there is a shortage of practicing veterinarians. That means that the demand for in-home services like hospice and euthanasia has skyrocketed.

Kristi Lehman, a veterinary social worker for MN Pets, worries about the demands on the doctors and staff. “Our team is being pushed to their physical limits with how many families they can see and how many appointments they can drive to. So, there is a lot of discussion about our doctors’ quality of life.”

Complete Article HERE!

Moving Photos Capture People’s Final Moments with Their Pets

By Pesala Bandara

A photographer has set up a nonprofit which offers free end-of-life photo shoots for pet owners.

The Tilly Project was created by Portland-based photographer Lauren Smith-Kennedy in 2021 and began as a small Facebook group.

Now, the international non-profit has a database of over 1,400 photographers around the world who offer their services to grieving pet owners and capture the tender moments families share with their beloved animal companions as they say goodbye for the final time.

Lauren Smith-Kennedy | The Tilly Project
Lauren Smith-Kennedy | The Tilly Project
Lauren Smith-Kennedy | The Tilly Project

“This photography acts as a tool to allow families to navigate through their own grief journey while having tangible memories of their pet’s final stages of life,” Smith-Kennedy tells PetaPixel.

“Many times, scheduling this type of session can also allow the families to come to terms with anticipatory grief.”

Alexpressions Photography | The Tilly Project
2 Girls & Their Cameras | The Tilly Project
2 Girls & Their Cameras | The Tilly Project
Linked Hearts Photography | The Tilly Project
Mandy Houston Photography | The Tilly Project
Emma Beth Photography | The Tilly Project
Emma Beth Photography | The Tilly Project

Smith-Kennedy has shared some of the beautiful and moving images that The Tilly Project’s photographers have captured for pet owners across the globe.

Smith-Kennedy, who works as a director at a wildlife center, began The Tilly Project after she experienced her own loss when her cat Tilly passed away in a freak accident.

The traumatic experience inspired her to use her photography skills for a good cause and help others who were experiencing the loss of a pet.

Smith-Kennedy began offering free end-of-life photo shoots to other pet owners as a way to always remember their animals. She also began collecting the names and information of other photographers who were willing to offer the same service.

Tasha Sport Photography | The Tilly Project
Belay’s Paws In Motion | The Tilly Project
Kristin Cole Photography | The Tilly Project
Sweet Camellia Photography | The Tilly Project
Geli Visions | The Tilly Project
Lauren Smith-Kennedy | The Tilly Project

In less than two years, The Tilly Project went from being a Facebook group to a nonprofit and valuable end-of-life pet photography network that provides resources for pet loss and bereavement. It also serves as a support system for those who have lost or are about to lose a pet.

“There is a high demand for end-of-life pet photography — many families want that chance to celebrate and honor the lives of their pets who mean the world to them. Some weeks I will receive hundreds of inquiries,” Smith-Kennedy says.

“When I am doing my end-of-life sessions, I give lots of prompts instead of poses. I love to encourage those authentic, real moments that will then be turned into precious memories.”

Lauren Smith-Kennedy | The Tilly Project[/caption]

Individuals can sign up to become an affiliate photographer with The Tilly Project on the nonprofit’s website.

“We welcome photographers of all skill levels,” Smith-Kennedy explains. “We do require photographers to have an online gallery that displays their work so families are able to see this portfolio prior to connecting.”

She adds: “We have a mix of photographers who offer this service for free, and those who charge as they have a photography business.”

More information on The Tilly Project can be found on the non-profit’s website, Facebook group, and Facebook page.

Complete Article HERE!

Dealing with pet loss

— How to help a grieving pet parent

Pet parents often say that losing their animal companions is as hard as, if not harder than, losing a human family member, experts say

By Marlene Cimons

Since 2012, Dana Topousis has lost four dogs — all young Dobermans — to illness.

Galen died of heart disease; the others, Homer, Romeo and Ruthie, succumbed to different cancers. So, she knows grief, which she calls “a lonely thing.”

“I live by myself, and my animals are my family, so it takes me a long time to recover,” said Topousis, of Davis, Calif., head of marketing and communications for the University of California at Davis. “Also, because my dogs were young, there’s unexpressed love — you think about all the things you won’t get to do with your dog.”

Pet parents often say that losing their animal companions can sometimes be as hard as, if not harder than, losing a human family member, experts said.

“Your pets follow you into bathroom. They sleep with you. They are your shadow. Human family members don’t do that,” said Leigh Ann Gerk, a pet loss grief counselor in Loveland, Colo., and founder of Mourning to Light Pet Loss. “Humans don’t go crazy with joy when you come back inside after getting the mail. Human relationships, while important, can be difficult. Our relationship with our pets is simple. They love us just as we are.”

People want to help, but often don’t know how. Sometimes their comments can hurt.

“Greater society doesn’t recognize the intensity of this loss and the grieving that comes with it,” said Jessica Kwerel, a D.C. psychotherapist who specializes in pet loss.

How to support grieving pet parents

We spoke with pet loss grief experts about how people can support grieving pet parents. Here is their advice:

Avoid euphemisms and platitudes. Don’t say, “They are in a better place,” since “the only place you want your pet is in your home,” Gerk said. Other things not to say: “They’re running free,” “They’re not in pain anymore,” “They’re with your other dogs now,” “They’ve gained their wings” or “Everything happens for a reason.”

While some people might find these phrases healing, others may see them as dismissive, Kwerel said. “That’s trying to apply logic to an emotional experience,” she said.

Members of one social media dog rescue group told Topousis that one day she would see Romeo — who lost a leg to osteosarcoma — running again on all four legs. She cringed. “I know they meant to comfort me, but it was a painful thought,” she said.

Never say an animal has been “put to sleep,” when explaining a pet’s death to a young child. They may fear going to sleep at night. “Instead, you can say: ‘We helped him along in his dying process,’” Kwerel said.

Be careful with Rainbow Bridge imagery. The Rainbow Bridge is a mythical overpass where grieving pet parents are said to reunite forever with their departed animals.

“That’s not a belief system for some people,” Gerk said. “I’ve had clients say they want to believe in the Rainbow Bridge, but they don’t know if they do. I remind them: if it brings them comfort to believe in it, then believe in it.”

Provide validation with facts, if possible. I lost one of my dogs, Raylan, recently to splenic hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive and fatal cancer. After surgery and chemotherapy, Raylan enjoyed five terrific months before the cancer returned.

A stranger wrote this to me via a Facebook dog rescue group: “I am a human pathologist. This kind of cancer is essentially incurable in both people and dogs. Five months of quality time after first diagnosis is fantastic. You did the right thing, no matter how hard. Don’t second guess yourself. Further efforts would have just prolonged suffering.”

Guilt often goes along with mourning, and his comments eased both for me.

Share your pet grief story. It can help the grieving pet parent to know you’ve been through it, too, but don’t make it about yourself.

“Don’t compare grief situations,” said Michele Pich, assistant director of the Shreiber Family Pet Therapy program at Rowan University. “That won’t help. You can say: ‘I understand how painful this can be,’ but keep the focus on this current experience.”

If you knew the pet, share your memories. It’s helpful for pet owners “to know their animal has made an impact on other people’s lives as well as their own,” Pich said. And use the pet’s name rather than saying, “your dog” or “your cat,” Gerk suggested.

Rituals are wonderful. Make a donation to a rescue group or plant a tree in that animal’s honor. Write a poem about the pet, or even an obituary. Topousis’s co-workers used photos of Romeo from her Facebook page to commission a painting of him that now hangs in her living room.

Complete Article HERE!

Counselors Are Urged To Take the Death of Their Clients’ Pets More Seriously

By Margherita Cole and Pinar Noorata

For many people, their pets are their world. The love they feel for their dog, cat, rabbit, lizard—any domesticated living creature they care for—is boundless. That’s precisely why losing a pet is like losing a member of the family. However, this type of bereavement is rarely taken as seriously in professional and social settings. Though many people can sympathize with someone grieving the loss of another human, society generally lacks the same level of empathy for someone whose pet has passed away. In an effort to dissolve the stigma around a person grieving the death of a pet, a new review strongly encourages counselors to take different approaches with clients who are mourning their non-human companion.

The review—titled Overcoming the social stigma of losing a pet: Considerations for counseling professionals and co-authored by Dr. Michelle Kay Crossley (an assistant professor at Rhode Island College) and Colleen Rolland (president and pet loss grief specialist for Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement)—explores the importance of recognizing grief in patients and offering them a safe space to deal with it. The report explains: “While empathy may come more naturally when discussing human loss, there are other types of loss that are not acknowledged or given a similar amount of attention by society. Grief due to these socially unendorsed losses is referred to as disenfranchised grief and can include death by suicide, a lost pregnancy/miscarriage, and death from AIDS, in addition to the death of a pet.”

Dr. Crossley and Rolland explain how harmful the disregard of a pet owner’s grief can be. As the paper states, “When relationships are not valued by society, individuals are more likely to experience disenfranchised grief after a loss that cannot be resolved and may become complicated grief.” In an effort to guide mental health consultants, the co-authors write: “It is important for counselors to recognize their own biases regarding the types of losses that are worth an empathetic response as individuals are better able to heal from a loss through social support and recognition.” They add, “A counselor can cause more pain to the client by not understanding or honoring the depth of the bond shared between the client and the pet. The distress that one can experience secondary to the loss of a companion animal can be intense, and it is critical to serving these clients in the same manner that we would have had they been grieving the loss of a human.”

The article also highlights the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on human-animal relationships. During this time, there was an increase in the adoption rates of cats and dogs. Additionally, since many individuals transitioned to working from home, people also relied more on their animal companions for comfort. As a result, many more people have bonded with their pets in the last few years. But, even in years prior to this uptick in animal adoption, the American Veterinary Medical Association recorded in 2018 that “57% of households owned a pet with 66% owning more than one companion animal. Of the individuals surveyed, approximately 80% consider their pets to be family members, 17% consider them to be a companion and only 3% consider them property.”

Ultimately, the article strongly urges counselors to consider pet bereavement with equal empathy to human losses, which are given greater acknowledgment by society, and provide safe spaces for clients to work through their grief. “Giving a voice to individuals grieving a disenfranchised loss is one way in which counselors can help clients through pet loss,” the co-authors advise. “It is also important to integrate pet loss work into counseling interventions and coping strategies that are already being used in the therapeutic space.”

Complete Article HERE!

Why mourning a pet can be harder than grieving for a person

People are often taken aback by the intensity of pet grief.


Many pet owners know that our connections with animals can be on an emotional par with those we share with other humans – and scientific research backs this up.

The key ingredients of human attachment are experiencing the other person as a dependable source of comfort, seeking them out when distressed, feeling enjoyment in their presence and missing them when apart. Researchers have identified these as features of our relationships with pets too.

But there are complexities. Some groups of people are more likely to develop intimate bonds with their pets. This includes isolated older people, people who have lost trust in humans, and people who rely on assistance animals.

Researchers have also found our connections with our fluffy, scaled and feathered friends come with a price, in that we grieve the loss of our pets. But some aspects of pet grief are unique.


For many people, pet death may be the only experience they have of grief connected to euthanasia. Guilt or doubt over a decision to euthanise a cherished companion animal can complicate grief. For example, research has found that disagreements within families about whether it is (or was) right to put a pet to sleep can be particularly challenging.

But euthanasia also gives people a chance to prepare for a beloved animal’s passing. There is a chance to say goodbye and plan final moments to express love and respect such as a favourite meal, a night in together or a last goodbye.

There are stark differences in people’s responses to pet euthanasia. Israeli research found that in the aftermath of euthanised pet death, 83% of people feel certain they made the right decision. They believed they had granted their animal companion a more honourable death that minimised suffering.

Man on bench looking at the ground holding a dog leash
Pet grief can make people turn inwards.

However, a Canadian study found 16% of participants in their study whose pets were euthanised “felt like murderers”. And American research has shown how nuanced the decision can be as 41% of participants in a study felt guilty and 4% experienced suicidal feelings after they consented to their animal being euthanised. Cultural beliefs, the nature and intensity of their relationship, attachment styles and personality influence people’s experience of pet euthanasia.

Disenfranchised grief

This type of loss is still less acceptable socially. This is called disenfranchised grief, which refers to losses that society doesn’t fully appreciate or ignores. This makes it harder to mourn, at least in public.

Older man holding pet dog outside
Older people often more isolated which makes their pets an important source of comfort.

Psychologists Robert Neiymeyer and John Jordan said disenfranchised grief is a result of an empathy failure. People deny their own pet grief because a part of them feels it is shameful. This isn’t just about keeping a stiff upper lip in the office or at the pub. People may feel pet grief is unacceptable to certain members of their family, or to the family more generally.

And at a wider level, there may be a mismatch between the depth of pet grief and social expectations around animal death. For example, some people may react with contempt if someone misses work or takes leave to mourn a pet.

Research suggests that when people are in anguish over the loss of a pet, disenfranchised grief makes it more difficult for them to find solace, post-traumatic growth and healing. Disenfranchised grief seems to restrain emotional expression in a way that makes it harder to process.

Our relationships to our pets can be as meaningful as those we share with each other. Losing our pets is no less painful, and our grief reflects that. There are dimensions of pet grief we need to recognise as unique. If we can accept pet death as a type of bereavement, we can lessen people’s suffering. We’re only human, after all.

Complete Article HERE!

Visiting Mariah Carey’s Cat’s Grave

— Reflections on Disenfranchised Grief

E.B. Bartels on the Particular Sorrow of Losing a Pet

The grave I was looking for was in a quiet back corner of the cemetery, surrounded by trees. I was grateful for the shade—it was August in Westchester County, and the place was hot. Asphalt pathways criss-crossed rows of blinding granite headstones; my black dress clung to the sweat on my back. I’d spent the afternoon walking up and down the paths of this four-acre cemetery. Bright spots of metallic pinwheels, Mylar balloons, and neon stuffed animals decorated the headstones. Flowers wilted in the summer sun.

Under the trees, weaving through the graves, I found the marker: pink granite, engraved with hearts. Clarence, it read. My eternal friend and Guardian angel. You’ll always be a part of me forever. And underneath, obscured by flowers: love, M.

I had read about Clarence. I knew he was a loyal friend, kind, affectionate, sweet. Even though he ran with a famous crowd, he didn’t seem to care about money or celebrity or power. He valued the simple things in life. I studied the dates under Clarence’s name: 19791997. Clarence was eighteen when he died— by most cemeteries’ standards, painfully young. But in this cemetery, in Hartsdale, New York, eighteen is a good, long life.

I was looking at the grave of Mariah Carey’s cat.

When we open our hearts to animals, death is the inevitable price.This was not my first celebrity pet memorial. I’ve sat at the grave of Donald Stuart, Royal Nelson, and Laddie Miller—Lizzie Borden’s Boston terriers—their headstone engraved with the phrase sleeping awhile. I visited Pet Memorial Park, in Calabasas, California, where Hopalong Cassidy’s horse, Rudolph Valentino’s and Humphrey Bogart’s dogs, Charlie Chaplin’s cat, and one of the MGM lions are buried.

I traveled to the outskirts of Paris to see Rin Tin Tin’s grave in the Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques. I’ve said a prayer standing over the final resting place of America’s hero racehorse Secretariat, in Lexington, Kentucky. But every time, what impressed me more than the celebrity pet graves was all the headstones that surrounded them.

Celebrities are not alone in burying their dead pets. To the left and right of Clarence’s pink granite tombstone were hundreds of graves for other animals belonging to regular people. These memorials were no more or less lavish than the headstone Mariah had engraved for Clarence. If I hadn’t known about the telltale love, M on Clarence’s stone, I wouldn’t have been able to distinguish his grave from any of the others. Celebrities, I thought, studying the two hearts flanking Clarence’s name. They’re just like us.

By the time I visited Hartsdale, I’d already had a long personal history with pet cemeteries; in fact, I went to high school next to one. My school was of the New England prep variety, with facilities better than those at many colleges, on a gorgeous green campus in Dedham, a suburb southwest of Boston. This was the sort of school that carefully curated its image, boasting of athletic alumni competing in the Olympics, generations of legacy students, high SAT scores, and extremely competitive Ivy League acceptance rates. Less present in its marketing materials: that the school is located next to several thousand dead animals, buried in the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s Pine Ridge Pet Cemetery. Pine Ridge was the first official pet cemetery I knew of, but there are more than seven hundred of them scattered throughout the country.

By the time I was fourteen and first saw Pine Ridge, I’d already loved and lost many companion animals. I also loved to read, and, frankly, young adult literature is full of dead pets. “I remember that awful dread as the number of pages shrank in each new animal book I read,” writes Helen Macdonald in her memoir H Is for Hawk. “I knew what would happen. And it happened every time.” What happens in Old Yeller? The dog dies. In Where the Red Fern Grows? Two dogs die. The Red Pony? The pony dies. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing? The turtle dies.

In this way, grieving pets is a disenfranchised grief, which can make it hard to know how to process and honor it.I could go on.

When we open our hearts to animals, death is the inevitable price. Jake Maynard, in his essay “Rattled: The Recklessness of Loving a Dog,” writes that loving an animal is “mortgaging future heartbreak against a decade or so of camaraderie.” Matthew Gilbert, in his memoir Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park, writes, “In the course of an average human lifetime, pots and pans and couches and lamps stay with us for longer stretches of time. Even beloved T-shirts survive the decades, the silk-screened album images and tour dates wrinkled and cracked but still holding on. With a dog, you’re on a fast train to heartache.”

Yet people keep getting pets. As of the writing of this, 67 percent of American households, 84.9 million homes, own “some sort of pet,” according to the American Pet Products Association. And yet, despite those millions of pet owners all over the globe, and despite the inevitable loss that comes with that relationship, the ways people grieve a dead pet aren’t always taken very seriously.

Imagine Mariah canceling a world tour due to “a death in the family.” If her mother died, of course people would understand, without question. She would get cards and flowers; fans would send encouraging, sympathetic messages. But if Mariah put off a tour to mourn for her cat Clarence? Some fans would get it, I’m sure, but she would also certainly become the butt of thousands of jokes on social media.

For every pet that’s died, the one thing they’ve had in common has been my feeling of not knowing what to do with my grief—I could do everything, anything, nothing.Fiona Apple actually did postpone her South American tour in 2012 to spend more time with her dying pit bull, Janet, publishing a handwritten note explaining her reasoning to fans on her Facebook page. (Apple would later play percussion using Janet’s bones in a song on her album Fetch the Bolt Cutters.) Thousands of fans wrote supportive messages—it seems on brand that Fiona Apple fans would get it—but there were also ugly comments the moderators had to delete. Pets don’t live very long. They’re going to die. What were you  expecting? Taking time off from work to grieve for your pet as you would for a human—some say that’s too much.

In this way, grieving pets is a disenfranchised grief, which can make it hard to know how to process and honor it; but there’s freedom in that, too. With social acceptance come social standards and expectations. The human funerals I’ve been to run together in my mind.

I grew up in an Italian Irish Catholic household in Massachusetts, so to me the death of a person meant the same open casket, the same Bible verses, the same laminated prayer cards and stiff black clothes, the same taste of funeral home Life Savers, the overpowering scent of day lilies, the post-funeral deli sandwiches. Different cultures have different traditions, but every culture typically does have its own set of mourning rituals—for humans. The rituals may feel tedious and repetitive at times, but they also offer stability and closure. There is comfort in the expectedness. Even in the “spiritual not religious” memorial services I’ve been to, I see patterns: the same large-format photos of the deceased, the same Dylan Thomas poem, the same covers of “Make You Feel My Love.”

There’s no guidebook for mourning your animal. Some people keep urns with their animals’ ashes on their mantels for decades; others bury their pets (sometimes illegally) in their yards. Some knit scarves out of their cats’ fur; others have their dogs taxidermied. Some immediately go out and get a new puppy or kitten; others vow never to love again.

Taking time off from work to grieve for your pet as you would for a human—some say that’s too much.When your pet dies, it’s possible you’ve never seen anyone else grieve for a pet. There’s a good chance you won’t have a model to follow. My family cremated one of our dogs and spread his ashes by a lighthouse; another I carried home from the vet wrapped in towels, and we buried her in our yard. I made a small cemetery behind my childhood home to entomb my birds and fish; we never acknowledged the inevitable death of the tortoise that went missing.

For every pet that’s died, the one thing they’ve had in common has been my feeling of not knowing what to do with my grief—I could do everything, anything, nothing. I often wished for an encyclopedia of options, a guidebook to help me figure out how best to honor my departed animal friends, to both grieve for and celebrate their lives. I want my book, Good Grief, to be that guide.

That August day in Hartsdale, it struck me that every animal was buried there intentionally. No pet is buried in a cemetery because the law requires it; pets are buried in a cemetery because a human wanted them to be there. It doesn’t matter if it is the Jindaiji Pet Cemetery, in Tokyo, or Pet Heaven Memorial Park, in Miami—worldwide, throughout history, the love is the same, and the people who honor their pets in this way understand one another.

As I sat by Clarence’s memorial, I watched a woman visit her pet’s grave. She borrowed scissors from the cemetery office to trim back the grass around the stone. A few rows over, a man carried a bouquet of flowers. He approached the woman to borrow the scissors; she gave them to him with a nod. No judgment in the exchange, just one pet person to another. When you get it, you get it.

Complete Article HERE!

Research offers new perspective on grieving loss of a pet

A new review published in the CABI journal Human-Animal Interactions offers counsellors additional perspectives to explore while working with clients who have lost their pets.

The research highlights how during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was more opportunity for people to spend longer with their pets – relying on them to help maintain a sense of normality and provide security during periods of isolation.

Dr Michelle Crossley, Assistant Professor at Rhode Island College, and Colleen Rolland, President and pet loss grief specialist for Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB), suggest that pets play a significant role in the lives of their caregivers.

However, they add that grieving the loss of a pet continues to be disenfranchised in society.

Dr Crossley said, “Perceptions of judgment can lead individuals to grieve the loss without social support.

“The present review builds on research in the field of pet loss and human bereavement and factors in the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human-animal attachment.

“A goal of the present review is to provide counsellors with perspectives to consider in their practice when working with clients who have attachments to their companion animals.

“It also aims to acknowledge the therapeutic benefits of working through the grief process to resolution as a way to continue the bond with a deceased pet.”

The researchers say that stigma associated with grieving a loss can complicate the healing process and that counselors would expect to see more clients wanting to discuss their grieving – particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They add that while empathy may come more naturally when discussing human loss, there are other types of loss that are not acknowledged or given a similar amount of attention by society.

This includes death by suicide, a lost pregnancy/miscarriage, death from AIDS and the death of a pet.

Ms Rolland said, “When relationships are not valued by society, individuals are more likely to experience disenfranchised grief after a loss that cannot be resolved and may become complicated grief.

“The major goals of this review are to provide counsellors with an aspect to consider in their therapeutic work with clients dealing with grief and loss and present different factors that may impact how one grieves the loss of a pet.

“It also discusses considerations for counseling that can be utilized to foster a supportive and non-judgmental space where clients’ expressions of grief are validated.”

Dr Crossley and Ms Rolland, in their review, suggest that having a safe space to discuss the meanings associated with the companion animal relationship is beneficial for moving through the loss in a supportive environment, leading to the resolution of the pain of the loss.

Dr Crossley added, “When an individual loses a pet, it can be a traumatic experience, especially given the strength of attachment, the role the pet played in the life of the individual, as well as the circumstances and type of loss.

“Giving a voice to individuals grieving a disenfranchised loss is one way in which counsellors can help clients through pet loss.

“It is also important to integrate pet loss work into counseling interventions and coping strategies that are already being used in the therapeutic space.”

The researchers believe that group counselling sessions in person or web-based chatrooms can both work as healing spaces for those working through grief.

Counselors can also engage both children and adults who are navigating pet loss by providing them with supplies and space to paint, draw, or use figures to draw out their anxieties and fears about the loss, they state.

In conclusion, Dr Crossley and Ms Rolland argue that understanding the grief process of pet owners can better prepare professionals to foster non-judgmental spaces where clients can feel open to display their grief.

Furthermore, providing empathy and validating the feelings that any type of loss of a pet can create for the clients may lead to more open sharing among the community further enhancing the healing process and a possible societal shift in the recognition of grieving pet loss as a normative experience.

Complete Article HERE!