By definition, grief is a multi-faceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed.
As therapists, we have the rare opportunity to learn from our clients, as our clients learn from us. Over the course of many years, I continue to bear witness to clients’ pain, whether it be buried, projected, internalized, or stuck. One thing remains the same; when it comes to the loss of one’s pet, there is nothing stuck about their deep and expressed/experienced pain! I have had a good deal of experience working with clients around the dying and death of their best friend, their pet. Quite often, it is this pain that brings them into treatment.
Many clients have shared their stories and their disappointment or feelings of a lack of empathy or understanding with a previous counselor around the issue of greatest concern to them, such palpable pain around the loss of their animal. When seeking help and comfort, it is NOT okay for a client to feel empty, misunderstood, and even a sense of shame in the therapeutic setting!
The darkest hours of a clients’ pain around the death of their pet can also help to create a new and healthy beginning of a therapeutic relationship. Bring in pictures, albums, memorabilia. Does your therapist remain engaged? Ask questions? Please do not ever forget, for some people, their relationship and loss of their pet is and was as important and heartfelt as someone else’s loss of a parent, friend, or partner/spouse!
Grief is for the grieving!!