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Pet loss

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Pet loss

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Grief and loss can encompass a number of things, friends, family members, even a dear pet. Pets are often a part of the intimate, complex dynamics of our everyday lives. They can be a source of comfort, joy, and support.

  • Think back to when you brought your pet home. What were the circumstances? Often pets support our mental and/or physical health needs.
  • Consider the young adult who depends on their guide dog so they can safely interact in the world.
  • What about the older adult who adopts a dog to help cope with her grief and loss of losing her spouse.
  • Think about the traumatized child who finds comfort and is able to sleep knowing that his dog is close by.
  • Consider the middle-aged adult with limited mobility whose service animal offers invaluable assistance to access daily needs.
  • How about the family who adopts kittens to help their children adjust and cope with a recent move away from everything and everyone they’ve known.

These are just a handful of examples of ways in which an animal can be connected to your mental and physical health needs. In fact, animals can provide support for anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Alzheimer’s Disease, Schizophrenia, hearing, sight, seizures, disabilities, and more.

While some of us may have very overt reasons for bringing an animal into our home, others of us may have just longed for companionship of some kind. We may not have foreseen the bond and impact our pet would have in our lives. How are you coping with the absence of such a friend?

Sadly, the circumstances in which we lose our pet can cause additional distress. The loss may have been sudden, such as an accident or medical emergency. The loss could have been gradual, perhaps chronic health conditions that significantly worsened. Often pet owners are faced with the difficult decision to “put down” their pet. This can be a devastating decision.

Therapy can support your grief and help you deal with your loss. Together with a therapist you can discuss and better understand how important a role your pet played. Your therapist can help you identify your emotions and validate the significance of a loss like this. Someone who has never had a pet or a close bond with a pet may find it challenging to understand why the loss affects someone so profoundly. A therapist can listen to, understand, and help you through your grief.

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Lauren Pena
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