For many people a pet is not "just a dog" or "just a cat." For some of us, our pet is a closely revered friend, providing way to give and receive a daily dose of acceptance and unconditional love in our lives with a purity that can be hard to find elsewhere. Pets are beloved members of the family. When you lose or are in the process of losing a beloved companion pet the sense of loss can feel overwhelming, traumatic and very significant.
Grief can be complicated by the role the animal played in your life. For example, if your pet was a working dog or a helper animal such as a guide dog, then you'll not only be grieving the loss of a companion but also the loss of a coworker or the loss of your independence. If you cared for your pet through a protracted illness, you likely grew to love him even more. If you lived alone and the pet was your only companion, coming to terms with the loss can be even harder. If you were unable to afford expensive veterinary treatment to prolong the life of your pet, or you had to make the difficult decision to euthanize your pet, you may even feel a profound sense of guilt.
Grief is Different for Everyone…
Grief is a highly personal experience and is often not a linear process. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, only your way. However, to undergo the process alone can feel very isolating.
For some the grieving process happens gradually. It can't be forced or held to a time line—there is no "normal" timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Counseling can assist in this process, so that you can effectively grieve in a way that allows for the building of new coping strategies and ultimately allow you to move forward.
Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to the loss of a beloved pet. Exhibiting these feelings doesn't mean you are weak, so you shouldn't feel ashamed.
Trying to ignore your pain, or not "burdening" others with it can often make it worse and prolong the grieving process. In a compassionate and accepting environment I create the safety you need to explore these painful feelings, ultimately find acceptance, recover happy memories and hold onto the best that was the relationship with you and your beloved pet.